Its bright and vibrant appearance equaled only by its sweet, slightly tart and wholly invigorating taste, the orange remains a favorite today among children and adults alike, as do many of its citrusy cousins such as the lemon, lime and even the grapefruit. But what of the Buddha’s hand? Or the kumquat? When was the last time you saw a truly ugli fruit? The list of citrus fruits extends well beyond the borders of the United States and the Americas, and countries throughout the world celebrate the power of its sweet-and-sour appeal. But you don’t need to travel too far to experience a world’s worth of bright reds and vivid yellows at Central Market’s Citrus Fest, where they reveal the citrus world to all those seeking sweet and tart pastures that extend past the usual citrus suspects. To help guide us through what Citrus Fest is all about and what varied and delightful fruits they’ll have to offer, we asked Central Market Produce Business Development Manager Marty Mika to help us understand the true meaning of Sour Power.
Well, Citrus Fest really is a celebration of citrus throughout the entire store, and while we’re going to have more than 40 citrus items for the event, we don’t just focus on the produce section. We incorporate the meat and seafood department when it comes to marinades and different citrus flavors that they can use, and even our bakery department focuses on quite an extensive line of lemon and lime flavored products. Basically, we scour all the growing areas and try to bring in new, unique and all-around great citrus items for the entire store to celebrate.
What are some of the fruits that have particularly piqued your interest?
Well, the Neapolitan mandarin is probably one of the best eating mandarins of the year. We also have Buddha’s hand, and some of the quat family; kumquats, mandarin quats, lime quats, all of those. Those are some of the more unique items as opposed to the everyday grapefruit or oranges, but even then, we will have quite a few different types of oranges and grapefruits.
Can you tell us a little more about the Neopolitan mandarin?
Sure – it’s very dark orange on the inside, and it’s got a deep, complex flavor that exceeds some of the other mandarins. The season is very short, but at this time of year, it’s much sweeter than any of the other mandarins.
Speaking of the season, are citrus fruits best in January?
January is normally the peak of citrus season in California, and Texas grapefruit is usually at the peak then, also. So yes, we look for the best two weeks out of the year and it’s usually some time in January.
Well, seafood and meat incorporate quite a few of marinades – and that includes the chicken, too. And also different fajita marinades. Of course lemons go really well with a variety of different seafoods – crab cakes and shrimp come to mind.
Then, with the bakery, they’ve done some lemon bars in the past and they have a cranberry orange scone, lemon tarts, key lime pies, lemon meringue pies, lemon chess pies, and the oatmeal cranberry orange cookies. They’ve got some pretty good stuff there.
So of all the specialty citrus fruits you bring in, what would you say is the most popular of them all?
I’d say that our heirloom navel orange is probably the number one item for the event – we call it heirloom because it’s an old root stock. Basically, it looks like a navel orange on the outside, and you can’t really tell that much difference until you eat it – it’s got a much sweeter flavor than a regular navel orange because of the root stock and the fact that our grower leaves it on the tree a little longer. So we have to be a little bit more careful with it; it’s a little more sensitive because it’s ripened more, but it’s a great-eating piece of fruit.
Thanks for the time, Marty – we’ll be sure to resolve to up the intake of citrus fruits for New Years.
Well, this should make that resolution a whole lot easier!