San Francisco Market Report: Smörgåsbord of Citrus

At the Alemany Farmer's Market in San Francisco on Saturday was a smörgåsbord of citrus. Living in California, we're lucky to have optimal weather and growing conditions for citrus, and farmers here like to experiment with growing lesser-known varieties from around the world. Anyway, here's a roundup of the many kinds of citrus that made an appearance on Saturday...

Meyer lemons are probably the most popular lemon variety in the Bay Area; every winter, cooks await their presence at the markets and on tables. Originally from China, they are thought to be a hybrid of a lemon and a tangerine, and have thin, smooth rinds that are dark yellow in color. They have much less acid than most lemons and are popular in custards, lemonade, lemon tarts, chutneys, relishes, risottos, and soufflés, to name a few.

Honey tangerines, also known as murcotts, have a dark orange flesh that is thin, tight, and hard to peel. They contain a lot of seeds, but their super-sweet sugary taste makes us forgive them for that. Their relatives, the satsuma mandarins, are the easy-to-peel petite fruits that are popular around Christmastime and make a healthy snack for lunchboxes.

Moro blood oranges are another popular citrus item in the Bay Area that foodies wait for every winter. Their ruby-red juice is refreshing and goes well in many cocktails, and the fruit is often found paired with fresh shaved fennel or with fish.

Lemons galore! Eureka lemons are a common acidic lemon that grow in many backyards in California. They go extremely well in this recipe for rosemary lemonade. Lisbon lemons are another abundant California "backyard lemon." Also making an appearance were pink lemons, which are very tart and have a peach-colored skin with subtle green stripes. They are very good juicing lemons and yes, they are really pink! The elusive bergemont lemons made an appearance and were selling at a price of $6 per pound - they have a very short growing period and are in high demand, thus driving up the price.

Grapefruit and grapefruit-like fruits such as the cocktail grapefruit were at the market. "Cocktail" is a variety of grapefruit that has an orange-colored flesh and is very sweet, with a slight acid aftertaste. Melogold grapefruit are a hybrid cross between a white grapefruit and a pummelo. The flesh is pale yellow in color and very sweet tasting. And of course, there were pummelos.

Limes were there as well. There were sweet Palestinian limes, sour rangpure limes, and kaffir limes. Bags of fresh kaffir lime leaves were available for making tom yum or tom kha soup.

In the category of Most Unusual, there were pink vainiglia oranges, which are a juicy, no-acid pink orange that have a subtle taste of melon. Also, there were Buddha's Hand citrus, which look like a strange, cephalopod-type creature. They are placed in drawers or hung in closets to add fragrance to clothes in some Asian countries. The zest is commonly used in cooking, particularly with chicken dishes.

Check out the Alemany Farmer's Market website here.

This is by Kathryn, who is up for one of our new writer positions. Welcome Kathryn!

(Image by Kathryn Hill.)

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Faith is the executive editor of The Kitchn and the author of three cookbooks. They include Bakeless Sweets (Spring 2013) as well as The Kitchn's first cookbook, which will be published in Fall 2014. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband Mike.

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