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Think citrus this holiday season.

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Fresh citrus has a strong traditional association with the holidays and gift-giving. Oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes are readily available during the holiday season. Citrus fruits make a great holiday gift that is also packed with nutrients. Eating just one orange provides 130 percent of the daily value of vitamin C, 28 percent of fiber and 12 percent of folic acid. It contains only 70 calories and is fat free, cholesterol free and sodium free. Consider this information on the nutrients in citrus fruit.

Vitamin C improves the immune system. It acts as an antioxidant and helps form collagen, a protein needed for healthy skin, teeth and bones. It also aids in iron absorption. Fiber reduces the risk for certain types of cancer, helps lower blood cholesterol levels and helps control blood glucose levels. Folic acid helps prevent serious neural tube birth defects and may lower the risk for heart disease.

When shopping for citrus, look for fruits that are firm and heavy for their size with bright, colorful skins. Avoid fruit with bruised, wrinkled or discolored skins. This indicates the fruit is old or has been stored incorrectly. Peel thickness will vary depending on the season, weather and growing conditions.

Oranges can be stored at room temperature for several days. For longer storage, refrigerate them in a plastic bag or in the crisper. Don’t worry when shopping if you run across a Valencia orange with a slightly green-colored skin. Green-tinged Valencias are actually at their best — fully ripe, sweet and juicy. The fully ripe fruit occasionally “regreens” in warm weather. After the fruit turns a bright orange color, the skin reabsorbs chlorophyll causing a ripe orange to look partially green.

Consider these citrus recipes for the holiday season.

HOLIDAY THREE-CITRUS TOSSED SALAD

1 head romaine lettuce torn into bite-sized pieces (about 8 cups) 1 grapefruit peeled and cut into cartwheel slices with slices quartered 1 orange peeled and cut into cartwheel slices with slices quartered 1 cup red bell pepper strips 1 small avocado, peeled and sliced crosswise

LEMON SESAME DRESSING

3 tablespoons lemon juice 3 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 tablespoon sesame oil 1 tablespoon honey

In large bowl, combine all salad ingredients and chill. Mix dressing ingredients and shake well. Toss salad with dressing. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds, if desired. Makes 6 servings (about 10 cups).

WINTER CITRUS WASSIL

4 cups water 1 cup sugar 6-8 cinnamon sticks 12-16 whole cloves 8 cups orange juice 1/2 cup lemon juice 4 cups pineapple juice orange and lemon slices

In a large saucepan, bring sugar, water and spices to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add orange, lemon and pineapple juice and simmer. Place orange and lemon slices in punch bowl. Pour hot punch over citrus slices and serve. Makes about 16 cups.

FRESH FRUIT AND CHEESE SANDWICH

1 pkg. (3 oz.) light cream cheese, softened 1 small banana, chopped grated peel of 1/2 orange 1 teaspoon brown sugar 8 slices raisin or whole wheat bread 2 oranges, peeled and cut into slices

In a bowl, combine cream cheese, banana, orange peel and brown sugar. Spread 4 slices of bread with cream cheese mixture; top with orange slices and remaining bread. Makes 4 sandwiches.

Posted on 17 Dec 2004

Pauline Williams
Family & Consumer Sciences and 4-H Agent, Salt Lake County

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