Soaking up the vitamin C

Published on Tuesday, 21 January 2014 23:18 - Written by CHRISTINE GARDNER

It’s funny to look around and see bare trees, dead grass and fallen leaves and then realize it’s the time of year when bright and juicy citrus is in season. I had a chance to visit a friend recently who has grapefruit trees and was amazed to see these trees — big and green and bursting with fruit.

She made fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice for breakfast and it was wonderful. Grapefruit has always been one of my favorites and I would get excited every year in December and January when my mom would come home with bags of grapefruit.

Last week I was at Central Market and they were celebrating their Citrusational event. All over the store there were citrus displays and each department from cheese to the meat counter and bakery had found unique ways to use citrus in their products.

There was a Stilton blue cheese blended with dried cranberries, walnuts and orange, lemon and blueberry bread, fennel-lemon rotisserie chicken, lemon-horseradish potatoes. I wanted to try everything.

My favorite citrus is blood oranges. The beautiful, deep pink-red juice and fruit is sweet with a little tang and fun to use in so many different ways. I get as many as I can while they are in season to use in drinks, desserts and roasted chicken or pork. When they are out of season the blood orange juice is available year-round at Sweet Gourmet. They bring it in from Sicily in frozen cartons and it tastes as fresh as if you picked the fruit straight from the tree.

Of course, nothing beats the sweet citrus from Italy, especially the lemons, but the Meyer lemons have a similar sweet flavor. Meyers have a softer skin and are also an easy tree to grow in East Texas. I know many ladies who have Meyer lemon trees on their patios and have a great supply of lemons from November through January.

One of the recipes I featured this week is from the “The Tuscan Sun Cookbook” by Frances Mayes. Spaghetti with Lemon and Crab is a recipe that is a favorite to make when the Meyer lemons first come into season.

It’s light, fresh and so easy to make with only a few ingredients.

I love what Mrs. Mayes says in her book about lemons. It truly sums up the simple pleasure of winter citrus.

“If I had to name the one ingredient I must have in the kitchen, it would be the lemon. The flavor, both assertive and enhancing, is like liquid sunshine blending into the food.”

Citrus truly is the fragrance and flavor of sunlight.