Winter is a citrus carnival at The FruitGuys. Every region has boxes brimming with bright orange citrus. Throughout the season, we'll see navels, blood oranges, Cara Caras, grapefruit, and myriad mandarins, including satsumas, clementines, Daisies, Dancys, Murcotts, pixie tangerines, and more. Our fruit buyers travel to the southern tips of their regions where the winter sunshine is ripening the fruit.
Since Alexander the Great first brought oranges west from India they've had a cherished place on our tables and in our culture. "Orangeries" (ornate greenhouses for growing citrus) became the centerpieces of European palaces such as Versailles, Schönbrunn, and Kensington. Conquering kings soon learned that sailors exploring far off lands could not survive without fresh fruit, and, to ward off scurvy, captains were commanded to carry vitamin C–rich citrus on board.
Many of us have parents and grandparents who can still recall the gift of a mandarin at Christmas time as a prized treat. Oranges wrapped in silk or decorated with cloves were a common Victorian era gift. The original Saint Nicholas of Myra was a bishop who gave children nuts and oranges from his donkey. And when Santa Claus took over the job of filling stockings, he would put a tangerine in the toe.
Oranges, lemons, and grapefruit are still treasured as gifts. In many winter solstice and return-of-the-light celebrations, the bright color, scent, and sustenance of citrus is essential. In fall at the Jewish holiday Sukkot, an etrog (a citron-like fruit) is a key element whose good flavor and aroma represent good deeds. In mid-winter, the Lunar New Year of the Chinese, Korean, Tibetan, and Vietnamese calendars also rolls in the year with bright lucky oranges.
Consider that the tangerine at your holiday celebration contains 70 milligrams of vitamin C. Studies show that vitamin C can help counter the effects of nitrites, such as those in Uncle Herbert's ham. Vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant that can help shield you from free radicals. Citrus also contains long-acting limonoid compounds, which can help your concentration at the holiday Scrabble smack down. And limonin is said to have cholesterol-lowering effects. The FruitGuys hope you have a joyous holiday, and suggest you open that satsuma first!
Heidi Lewis writes about farms, bees, and fruit from her home in Sonoma County, CA. She's been with The FruitGuys since they were FruitKids.