If you ever needed proof nature knows best you just have to look at citrus. As the cold months of winter descend and we are in need of immune boosting vitamin C, citrus fruits burst to life.
It’s hard to imagine life without citrus, which is the most widely produced fruit in the world. And while we are all familiar with oranges, lemons, grapefruit and limes, there is much, much more to discover in the citrus family.
This unusually shaped citron variety has finger-like sections, resembling those seen on representations of the Buddha. Though it looks like a lemon gone wild, the Buddha's Hand is actually a distinct fruit in the citron family. It has a sweet, lemon blossom aroma but no juice or pulp, meaning its uses are relegated to how you would lemon peel. The mild-tasting pith is not bitter, so the fruit can be zested or used whole.
Slice thinly for a sweet-smelling garnish over fish or Moroccan-style dishes. Preserve like you would lemons, infuse in vodka or create a syrup for cocktails.
Nicknamed the caviar of citrus fruit, the Finger Lime is a native of Australia, but we won’t hold that against them. Their caviar-like ‘beads’ burst with a classic lime flavour with a touch of lemon tartness.
While there are now a couple of commercial growers having success with Finger Limes in New Zealand, their scarcity does reflect in their price and short season.
Prized in Japan the Yuzu is a highly aromatic citrus lemon which originated in China. Yuzu look a bit like a cross between a lime and a mandarin, with knobbly skin. Their scant juice is puckeringly sour, but its rind is gently sweet and rich in aromatic oils.
In Japan Yuzu is one of the nation’s essential aromas and flavours. It’s a key ingredient in ponzu sauce, the tangy blend of Yuzu juice and soy sauce that often accompanies cold noodles or fried pork cutlets. It also lends zing to highballs, seasons potato chips and is a favourite flavour for candy.
Tangelos are a hybrid between a tangerine and a pomelo- hence the name. They have a perfumed aroma, a deep orange rind and a slightly bell-shaped tip.
Known for having fewer seeds and an easy to peel skin, tangelos are ideal for segmenting and juicing. Use them as you would an orange for drinks, desserts and zesty savoury applications.
Gisborne and the Poverty Bay area is New Zealand’s largest citrus growing area. With a temperate coastal climate, it lends itself to growing nearly all varieties. The region boasts a total planted area of some 800ha and over 200 growers. There are smaller plantings in Northland, Auckland, Bay of Plenty and Hawke's Bay.