Saturday, January 21, 2006

In Praise Of Citrus Sinensis

Commonly known as the sweet orange, Citrus Sinensis is the world's most popular fruit and has been on my favourites list since childhood, as both the fruit and the colour have always fascinated me on several levels. As a colour, I love the way its various hues harmonize with and contrast so perfectly against my skin. Its oils, which are used in a variety of products, from household cleaners to liqueurs and perfumes, exude a pleasantly bold fragrance that makes it one of my favourite aromatherapy scents. As it happens, while shopping a couple of weeks ago I ran across an interesting, beautifully scented candle filled with orange slices and leaves. A most fitting tribute to this lovely fruit.

As a food, the orange's versatility is endless. Aside from being delicious on its own, the sweet, universally recognizable flavour of this humble little fruit graciously releases its delightful, citrusy flavour and aroma when used in cooking, imparting an attention-commanding twist to otherwise ordinary dishes. In both sweet and savory cuisine, orange is an excellent complement to a variety of herbs and spices, and is particularly ambrosial when combined with chocolate, cardamom or rosemary.

On a recent trip to the market I discovered that there are two main categories of this citrus phenom and more varieties than I realised, each originating from different areas of the world, including the U.S., the Mediterranean regions, Egypt, Spain, Brazil and Mexico.

Sweet orange are ideal for eating and come in four main varieties: Sugar, Blood, Blond and Navel. While the Blond, also known as Valencia, is primarily a winter orange, Navel oranges are available in autumn, winter and spring. They have a thick, grainy skin that is easy to peel and their pulp is sweet with few or no seeds. Valencia and Navel are the two most commonly known and consumed varieties in the U.S.

Sour oranges are of two main varieties: Seville and Bigarade. Both are, as the name implies, bitter and usually used for marmalade, candying and liqueur, as they are too bitter to be eaten. The Seville is available in winter and has a thick rind, seeds and a strong bitter flavor. The Bigarade's flowers are used to make “eau de fleur d’oranger” (orange blossom water), a flavoring agent used in some pastries, and its zest is used in the confection of Cointreau, Curacao and Grand Marnier (orange flavoured liqueurs).

Of particular interest to me that day was the quaint little Blood orange. Though I had heard of its unique characteristics, this was my first encounter and I was immediately intrigued by its orange and red veined skin and dark-red seedless flesh. Its oddly beautiful coloring makes the Blood orange an interesting choice for food decoration. This little gem, grown in Spain, Italy and North Africa, has a sweet, juicy pulp and a fabulously bold taste with an uncommon, indescribable complexity as well as a sensual component that I simply cannot articulate. Needless to say, I enjoyed the experience, immensely!

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At Saturday, January 21, 2006 8:29:00 PM, Blogger Jpatrick said...

I like citrus fruit. When I was in Koreaa, tangerines were everywhere.

At Thursday, January 26, 2006 12:32:00 PM, Blogger Mary said...

I happened upon your blog from a search on flickr. The food sure looks tasty! I'd love to see the recipe for the peach salsa.

At Saturday, January 28, 2006 9:04:00 PM, Anonymous Mixed Masala said...

Hi JPatrick,

I love citrus, too. I didn't know tangerines were that plentiful in Korea. Thanks for letting me know.

Hey Mary,

Thanks for the compliment. Glad you enjoyed your visit to MM. I'm working on the salsa recipe and I'll be sure to post it once I'm done.


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