The Basics

Grapefruits, oranges, lemons, and limes are among the kitchen's most versatile ingredients and can be used to flavor meat and vegetable dishes as well as dressings, drinks, and sweets. Citrus juice adds acidity while zest contributes floral brightness. The fruits range in flavor from tart (lime) to sweet (orange) and are packed with vitamin C -- one orange has a day's worth. Florida produces about 70 percent of citrus consumed in the United States.

Buying and Storing

Choose fruit that is firm, shiny, heavy, and bruise- and blemish-free. Store at room temperature, up to 1 week, or refrigerate, up to 2 weeks. Before zesting, remove any waxy coating by washing the skin lightly. To get juice flowing, press and roll uncut fruit firmly on a work surface. Freeze juice in ice trays, then store in zip-top bags, up to 3 months.

To Use and Cook

The sour undertones in citrus enhance almost all other flavors. Lemon juice is an excellent substitute for salt -- a squeeze will brighten dips, sauces, and stews. Orange or grapefruit segments are terrific in salads. The tart fruits have a sweet side, too: Citrus juice makes for luscious custards (like in this Coconut-Key Lime Pie), sorbets, and glazes (like this Citrus Glaze).

Fresh Citrus Ideas

  • Toss grapefruit segments with avocado and arugula
  • Add finely grated orange zest to a chocolate batter
  • Place thin lemon rounds on top of a fish fillet before baking
  • Use lime and olive oil as a marinade for skirt steak
  • Mix fresh citrus juice with simple syrup and freeze in ice-pop molds


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