Citrus are among the most popular of fruits in the world. They range from the sour limes to the sweet oranges, with many varieties in between. While some citrus are somewhat cold hardy, most are subtropical or tropical, preferring warmer climates. For many years, oranges, grapefruits and lemons dominated the citrus market in the United States. However, other interesting types of citrus have made their way into markets today and are now widely available.
Citron resemble lemons, only larger. Some citrons have a slightly ribbed surface. When cut in half, they reveal an extremely thick rind. The flesh is sweet, seedy and rather juicy. The rind is sweet with a touch of bitterness and is often candied. Unusual varieties of citron exist. The Hand of Buddha is one of them, developing a fruit body with finger-like projections at one end of the fruit that cause it to resemble a human hand.
Grapefruit are larger than most other citrus fruits. The skin of grapefruits is yellow, often tinged with pink. The fruit can have flesh inside that is either yellow, pink or red. The color does not change the flavor. The flavor is tart, with a slight tinge of bitterness.
Kumquats are unique in that they are the only citrus fruit that is commonly eaten skin and all. The skin has a slightly sweet flavor, compared to the bitter flavor of other citrus fruits. The fruit is oblong, orange and bite-sized. The flavor is slightly tangy. Kumquats are usually available in winter months.
Lemons are well known as a yellow sour fruit. They are high in citric acid. Lemons are rarely eaten raw. Rather the juice and rind are used as flavoring in beverages and in cooking. The Eureka is a common variety with the classic lemon form with a small nipple on the tip of the end. Lisbon lemons are also popular. They are smaller and smoother-skinned than the Eureka.
Limes are green when ripe, have a distinct taste and are very acidic. Limes can be divided into two categories, Kaffir limes, also known as Persian limes or Tahiti limes, and Mexican limes also known as Key limes. Kaffir limes are larger and juicy with less acidity. Mexican limes are smaller, less juicy and more acidic.
Varieties include the tangerine, honey tangerine or Murcott, the satsuma orange, the clementine and the temple orange. All of these oranges peel very easily and the segments separate well. The flavor is sweeter than oranges, with less acid.
Oranges are the king of citrus fruit and are the number one cultivated fruit in the world. A range of orange types exist, each with its own characteristics. Many oranges, such as the Valencia, are grown primarily for their juice. Other, such as the Navel orange, are seedless, peel easily, and are grown to be eaten. The red-fleshed, blood orange has gained popularity lately as an ingredient in culinary circles for its rich, red juice, which is used as a flavoring ingredient.
The Calamondin orange, also known as the sour orange, is too acidic to be eaten. It is often grown simply as an ornamental plant to add color in landscapes. The juice can be used as a flavoring agent. The fruit is small, round and has many seeds. The Calamondin orange tree is prolific, producing hundreds of fruits.
Pummelos look like a grapefruit, only much larger. The pummelo fruit tastes milder, sweeter and less acidic than grapefruit. They have very thick rinds that can be difficult to open. The sections can be very irregular, forming a mosaic pattern when sliced in half.
The Bergamot orange is a small aromatic orange that is grown mostly for the peel, which is used as a source of oil. The oil is used as a flavoring. Oil of Bergamot is the primary flavoring in Earl Grey tea.
Many citrus fruits have been hybridized to produce a number of crosses. These include the limequat, which is a cross between a lime and a kumquat; the tangelo, a cross of a tangerine and an grapefruit; the tangor, a combination of a tangerine and an orange; the Meyer lemon, a cross of a mandarin orange and a lemon, and a combination of a grapefruit and a mandarin, called an ugli fruit.