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Citrus Fruits

Updated on August 17, 2015

Sweet and Sour

Citrus Fruits are native to tropical areas, and are best grown commercially in warm climates. Oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits, tangerines and citrons are among the 18 members of the citrus family Rutaceae, although each has its own, distinctive flavor.

Delicious in a fruit salad, in desserts or each on their own. They're full of vitamin C and not only taste great, but is good for you too.

Photo used with permission

History of Citrus Fruit

Citrus fruits originated in South-East Asia and, before Christian times, spread into the eastern Mediterranean from China, where they had been cultivated since the eighth century BC.

Seville oranges were the first to be known in Europe but by the fifteenth century sweet oranges were being grown in all of the Mediterranean countries. Portuguese and Spanish explorers introduced citrus fruits to the West Indies and from there they spread to North and South America. Citrus fruits grow in many different types of soil, but the best fruit is produced where the soil is slightly acid and the area is free from severe frost . The majority of citrus trees are small evergreens, some with aromatic leaves, and they usually have white flowers.

They start to bear fruit when the tree is about six years old, although it is 15 years before they bear a full crop. Citrus fruit must be fully ripe before picking, as it does not ripen off the tree.

Vitamin C is present in large quantities in all citrus fruit, and careful processing when the fruit is being canned or frozen ensures that it is not destroyed. Until the comparatively recent widespread consumption of fruit juices, marmalade had, for many years, been the principal product made from citrus fruits. Lime juice and canned segments of mandarin and grapefruit are also popular.

At one time, lime juice was issued to all British naval personnel to counteract scurvy, a disease caused by vitamin C deficiency. This disease became prevalent when sailors spent long periods at sea without fresh vegetables, and, until the introduction of limes, cases of scurvy were usually fatal.

Types of Citrus

  • Orange: a fruit growing in most sub-tropical climates and in univeral demand. It is grown on an evergreen tree that attains a height of about 20 feet at maturity.
  • Lemon: a pale-yellow thick-skinned oval citrus fruit with acidic juice.
  • Grapefruit: A large roundish, yellow-skinned edible citrus fruit.
  • Mandarin: a small flattish deep-colored orange with a loose skin.
  • Kumquat: an orange-like fruit with a sweet rind and acid pulp
  • Lime: A round citrus fruit like a lemon but greener, smaller and more acid.
  • Citron: the fruit of a tree of the lemon order, with thick rind, much used for candied peel.

Citrus Related Reading

What is a Citron?

Up close and personal with one of the lesser known citrus fruits

The citron is a spiny evergreen shrub or small tree that bears large, lemon-like fruits and is closely related to the orange, lemon, grapefruit, and other citrus trees. The fruits, also called citrons, are not eaten, but their thick peel is used in making desserts, liqueur, and perfume. The citron is native to Asia and is extensively cultivated in Corsica, Sicily, and Greece, as well as in the West Indies. It has long, crooked branches and pale-green leaves with round tips. Its purple and white flowers are about 1 1/2 inches (3.8 cm) across and grow in clusters.

Its fragrant oval fruits, which range from 6 to 10 inches (15-25 cm) long, contain a small amount of very acid pulp and have thick, warty, yellow-green rinds. The rinds, or peels, are preserved by being treated with brine and sugar and are widely used in cakes, candies, and other desserts. An oil extracted from the rind is used to make perfume and a liqueur, called cedratine.

The term "citron" is also applied to watermelon rind.

What's your favorite Citrus Fruit?

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