Saturday, December 6, 2014

Quick Tips: Tangerine Season

It's citrus season - the time of year when the juiciest oranges, lemons, limes, mandarins, pomelos, grapefruits and tangerines can be found. The season generally runs through late fall until spring. In addition to having the tastiest citrus fruit this time of year, it is also the cheapest part of the year to buy.

Just-picked Tangerines

Budget tip: buying seasonally usually means you're getting produce at the time of year that it's least expensive.

If your only exposure to fruits and vegetables is a traditional American supermarket, it's difficult to tell what is and is not in season. The best gauge in that situation is to look at prices regularly. As prices on certain items start to dip, that's a good indication that there's a surplus on the market...or the store just needs to get rid of that item. 

At least once a season, I suggest looking online in your area to get a sense of what is truly in-season. In the late spring, summer and early fall, you can also go to farmer's markets to see for yourself and support your local farmers. Another great seasonal way to eat and support local farms is to buy a farm share or sign up for a CSA (community-supported agriculture). The basic idea behind these are to pay money ahead to a farmer, so that they have a sense of what monetary resources they can depend on for the season, and then the farmer gives you a weekly allotment of fresh-from-the ground fruits and vegetables. To learn more about farm shares and CSA, check out the post My First Foray into CSA

Nutrition: 1 large tangerine has about 60 calories, 12 grams of naturally-occurring sugars, 2 grams fiber, 1/2 your daily vitamin C requirement, as well as a small amount of calcium, folate, B vitamins, vitamin A and potassium. 

Radish Enoki Avocado Tangerine Salad - YUM!
Find this gorgeous picture (credit Yunhee Kim) and recipe from the book, Feast, at Serious Eats

Chef tips: These are the easiest to peel citrus fruit! Look for fruit that is slightly heavy for its size with pebbly skin and no deep grooves (i.e. the one in the center of the picture above has deep grooves and if purchasing, you should avoid that one) and no signs of soft spots or mold. Tangerines taste best eaten at room temperature and will last about a week sitting out in a bowl. Refrigerate if you plan to keep them longer, but let them warm to room temperature before eating for the tastiest fruit. 

Tangerines are great for a quick snack or to slice and put in green or fruit salads. Use segments as a garnish. The juice is fantastic in custard desserts, sorbets, cocktails, marinades and quick breads. The zest is also great in quick breads (muffins, scones, pancakes, breads). The peel can be boiled in sugar syrup to candy it. This can be eaten as is or dipped in dark or white chocolate for a decadent treat. Whole tangerine peel is also used in marmalade and in Szechuan cuisine.

*To learn how to zest citrus fruit, check out the end of this post .

Health Research: Tangerines and other citrus fruits contain many anti-oxidants and phytonutrients that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Studies in the last few years have looked at a flavonoid called nobiletin which has been shown in mice to reduce atherosclerosis (plaque and blockages in blood vessels), fatty liver, prevent weight gain and keep blood sugar in the normal range (reduce insulin resistance) compared to mice who where given the same diet and living conditions but no nobiletin. More research is needed in people, but preliminary studies suggest that this compound could play a role in prevention and treatment of breast cancer and liver cancer as well as treatment of depression. Further studies are being conducted on all of the above as well as in Alzheimer's disease.

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