It’s hard to imagine a world without orange juice, lemonade, or a lime wedge garnishing your cocktail. But the appeal of citrus goes far beyond drinks. Its acid is used in recipes to balance and brighten other flavors, and even the zest can be used to amp up recipes. Citrus straddles the line between sweet and tart, which makes it adaptable to both sweet and savory dishes.
Citrus as a category is also diverse, including not only several varieties of lemons, limes, and oranges, but also tangerines, grapefruit, pomelo, and the Japanese yuzu, among others, according to Britannica. It’s no wonder that citrus fruits account for 14 percent of fresh fruit Americans consume, according to Farm Bureau. Oranges rank only below apples, bananas, and melons as the most common fruits in the United States.
Most people would find it difficult to live without citrus; indeed when 18th century British sailors attempted long voyages without it, they developed scurvy due to lack of vitamin C, according to the Science History Institute. Citrus fruits are an important dietary source of this all-important nutrient, and even a small orange has more than 50 milligrams, according to data data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
One important role of vitamin C, an antioxidant also known as ascorbic acid, is its role in immune function. Because of this role, vitamin C has been promoted as a key nutrient during cold and flu season. While there is no evidence that it can prevent upper respiratory illnesses, supplementing with vitamin C may shorten the duration of the common cold and lessen the severity of symptoms in the general population, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Ensuring that you’re getting plenty of vitamin C in your diet is a good idea regardless, and citrus is an extremely convenient source given that it is at its peak during the winter, prime cold and flu season, per the USDA. When you eat according to the seasons, your produce won’t have to travel as far to your plate as when you eat it at other times of the year — and the food’s nutritional value will remain maximized.
The following recipes help you make good use of citrus fruit and, if you’re enjoying them in the winter, will be sure to brighten your day.