The Skinny on... Oranges

There’s way more to oranges than just juice. Brighten a winter day — or any day — with the vast variety of oranges.
OrangesSkinny On

Winter is not relentless, thanks mostly to oranges. Gloriously abundant, they give us a little bit of sunshine when the weather says otherwise.

Oranges — and their kin — also give us a big dose of vitamin C. They’re high in fiber and have a respectable amount of B vitamins, potassium and calcium.

But not all oranges are created equal. And not all are even oranges. There are also tangerines and mandarins to consider. Even better, every variety racks up 0 PointsPlus® values!

Here’s everything you need to know about winter’s favorite fruit.

The 3 big categories
Oranges
These are the largest orange citrus. There are two types: eating and juicing oranges. Don’t get them confused. To eat a juicing orange at your desk is to invite a ridiculous mess! And to juice an eating orange can be an exercise in futility.
  • Eating oranges: These are fibrous enough to hold up as you chew them, more tooth per bite. At their peak through the dead of winter, these are the easiest to peel, the best to take in your bag for a day on the run.
  • Juicing oranges: By and large, their skin is thin; the flesh, sweet with slightly sour notes. A little green on the skin is no indication of whether the fruit is ripe. If you want to eat a juicing orange, don’t peel it. Cut it into wedges and bite the flesh off the skin.
Tangerines
  • Slightly smaller than oranges, tangerines are the easiest orange citrus to peel.
  • The thin skin is loose-fitting and zips off the fruit. Kids can peel them without much trouble.
  • Tangerines are best in midwinter, with some varieties going into early spring.
  • As a point of fact, tangerines may be in their own category in the kitchen, but they’re actually not in their own category botanically. Tangerines are in the same family as…
Mandarins
The king of the winter crop, mandarins are small, juicy and sweet. They’re known for their thin pith (the white membrane under the skin), leading to few bitter notes in the fruit. In general, the skin holds a little tighter to the fruit than in the standard tangerine.

Now that you’re hungry for all these different types of oranges, how do you know how to pick out and store the best of these citrus wonders? Here are a few tips.

Tips for when you’re at the store
  • Except for tangerines, all citrus should feel firm with a smooth, tight skin.
  • The fruit should be heavy in the hand. If you pick up two or three, choose the heaviest one in the bunch.
  • Some citrus are coated with a thin, food-grade wax so they don’t dry out in storage. Thus, they may not smell as ripe as they actually are.
  • Look for sales. Because citrus are perishable, grocery stores are often eager to turn over the stock. Get them while the getting’s good!
  • Avoid any oranges and the like with soft or squishy spots.
Tips for when you’ve got the fruit home
  • Store oranges, tangerines and mandarins at room temperature for a few days, maybe up to a week.
  • Longer than that, put them in the crisper drawer for up to six weeks.
  • However, remove them from the fridge an hour or so before eating so they’re not ice-cold. They taste best near or at room temperature.

Making supremes
Everyone loves those little orange sections in salads — the perfect little morsels without any white pith. They’re called supremes — and they take a little practice to make. Here’s how:

Cut off a small slice of the fruit’s top and bottom so the round citrus can stand steadily on the counter. Use a sharp paring knife to cut the rind off the flesh in long arcs, starting at the top and following the natural curve of the fruit to the bottom. Cut far enough into the flesh to remove the white pith but not so far as to damage the pulp. Once peeled, hold the fruit in your hand and use a paring knife to cut between the flesh and the white membranes separating the individual segments. Allow the segments to fall into a bowl. Discard any membranes, the pith and the peel. Click here to see a how-to video

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