Orange You Glad It’s Citrus Season in California!

_DSC0492It’s winter here in Northern California, which means it’s citrus season! This time of year, we love to get our hands and bellies full of these wonderful yellow, orange, pink and green-skinned gems. Today, it’s the oranges that are taking center stage. Whether you prefer navel, cara cara or Valencia oranges, it’s now that we can stock up on vitamin C and with the agreeable flavor of oranges it’s rewarding to get creative in the kitchen. Come and cook with us!

Oranges, like lemons and limes, are available year-round in stores, but nothing compares to the fresh fruit that is in season now. And while freshly-squeezed orange juice is better than soda, it’s health benefits pale in comparison to eating the whole fruit. It’s the healthy helping of vitamin C as well as the 170 cancer-fighting phytochemicals and 60 flavanoids that make oranges a complete package of health-promoting goodness. One phytochemical in particular, limonoids, is abundant in citrus fruit and accounts for the scent of fresh orange and lemon peels. It is being investigated for therapeutic effects such as antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial. Furthermore, initial tests have shown that it helps fight cancers of the mouth, skin, lung, breast, stomach and colon. Then there is the flavanoid Hesperidin that strengthens capillaries and has anti-inflammatory, antiallergic and anti carcinogenic actions. And these are just a few. All in all, oranges clearly pack a powerful punch!

The citrus fruit of the orange family also includes mandarins, tangerines, tangelos, etc. And each have different benefits. For instance, tangerines contain the citrus flavonoid nobiletin which helps prevent atherosclerosis. And because a lot of these beneficial components are actually found in the white stuff, the pith, make sure you eat the whole orange and don’t just limit yourself to the pulp, the juice or the pulpy juice.

The options on what to do with oranges in your kitchen are limitless. They are both sweet and sour, and the peel and pith are often bitter. Oranges pair well with almonds, basil, brandy, chocolate, cilantro, cinnamon, coffee, ginger, hazelnut, mint, nutmeg, persimmon, pineapple and vanilla. Make sure to purchase organic, non-waxed produce whenever a recipe includes the peel. And if you are lucky enough to get a big batch, know that the best way to store citrus fruit for more than a couple of days is in a refrigerator in a mesh bag that let’s the air circulate.

Oranges can be eaten cooked, raw, juiced, baked and creamed. In fact, if you are in need of a pick-me-up, particularly after last week’s rather “preachy” post on healthy food habits for 2015, indulge yourself with this deliciously creamy orange custard. It’s like eating a fresh orange, just creamier, tangier, sweeter and better! There, I said it! Now go and try it! Come and cook with us!

Creamy Orange Custard

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