It may be gloomy where you are right now, but it’s always sunny inside when you’re serving up the colorful fruits that are in season this time of year. Here are some great choices to consider.
The superstar of the winter fruit plate is citrus, and there are many varieties to choose from this time of year. In season now are mandarins, which are native to China and northeastern India. “You’ll see them in boxes like with trademarks including Cuties and Halos,” says Robert Schueller, Director of Public Relations at Melissa’s Produce. “While most people eat them out of hand, they’re great in a salad, and they can be used very well as meat tenderizers or in dressings.” Later in the season, usually March and April, look for Ojai Pixie tangerines, which are pale orange colored, with a pebbly skin that’s easy to peel.
Papaya means variety
If you’d like to include some exotic fruits on the menu, consider the papaya. Native to the tropics of Central and South America, they’re also called papitas or pawpaws. You’re probably most familiar with the common strawberry papaya, which is a single-serving size, the larger Caribbean red papaya and the largest of all papayas, the Maridol variety, which can feed five to six people. There’s also the Thai papaya, which is picked unripe and used raw in many Asian dishes.
Crack a coconut
Schueller points out an interesting fact about brown coconuts: they come in their own storage container. “They have a shelf life of months,” he says. But he notes that if they haven’t been refrigerated, you should avoid drinking their water. For drinking, you’ll want a young white coconut. “We sell them with a straw, ready to go. The water is sweet, refreshing and totally thirst-quenching.”
And that’s not all
There are many more vibrant, colorful fruit varieties to try this winter. Consider Australian mangoes, which are available for the first time in the United States and which come in Kingston Pride, R2E2 and Honey gold varieties. Or try passion fruit, the Korean butterscotch pear or Green Dragon apples, which are a cross between the Golden Delicious apple and Indo apple of Japan.
If you’re looking for another standout winter fruit, consider Buddha’s hand. “It’s available through January,” Schueller says. “It’s traditionally given as a gift, and it’s a symbol of happiness, longevity and good fortune. It’s wonderfully fragrant, but it has no meat on the inside, so it’s used only for its zest.”