When winter’s cloudy days leave you craving sunshine, reach for some colorful citrus. Though the term ‘citrus’ refers to a variety of rind-bearing fruits, some of the most common are oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, lemons, and limes. Their bright peels and flavors are sure to tantalize both your eyes and your taste buds! Not to mention, citrus fruits happen to be incredibly nutritious.

Health Factor: Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze?

Citrus fruits are literally dripping with health benefits. Each juicy, little segment is packed full of good-for-you nutrients. They’re also a tasty source of fiber and can help lower cholesterol, control glucose levels, and prevent constipation.

Citrus’s flavonoids even contain antioxidants that can reduce inflammation and help rid your body of carcinogens! Flavonoids are mostly contained in the white pith and membranes, so opting for the whole fruit over a glass of juice means more health advantages and less dishes in the sink.

It’s also no surprise that citrus is loaded with vitamin C. So, give your immune system a boost during the cold and flu season by incorporating these sunny fruits into your diet.

Versatility: More Than Just a Healthy Snack

Citrus’s durable peels make them a convenient and portable snack, but adding the fruit to recipes can also be a great way to brighten flavors and add an unexpected tang.

Fresh-squeezed lemon or lime juice mixed in with your pan sauce (after removing it from the heat), will take your meat or seafood dish to the next level. Zest from the rind is not only pretty, but adds wonderfully intense flavor, making it a perfect addition to pastas, baked goods, and dressings. Citrus salads are aromatic and colorful, and a great way to add some excitement to your greens. Citrus can also be used to flavor and garnish cocktails and beverages.

Picking the Perfect Citrus

When selecting your citrus, hold the fruit and feel for weight. If the fruit feels heavier than it looks, then it’s full of juice and perfectly ripe. Lemons and limes that are prime for picking will also have a little give to them when you squeeze them. For oranges, tangerines, and grapefruits, the peels should be firm and thin. Avoid any that are soft.

Peak Season

Reach for your favorite orange or grapefruit from about the time it turns cold until the time it becomes warm.  Depending on the variety, the month range may fluctuate, but there will always be a type of citrus fruit at its peak.

Navel oranges are best from December until March, blood orange varieties are the best from December until April, and clementines and tangerines are the best between late October and January. Opt for a ruby red grapefruit between October and April and a white grapefruit between April and June. Lemons and limes are the exception to this rule and in season throughout the year.

To prevent your citrus from going bad quickly, remove the fruit from any plastic bags it may have come in and store it in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer.

Brighten up the winter months with some edible sunshine. And just remember, if life gives you lemons…it’s the perfect opportunity to add some zest to a delicious sauce or beverage and enjoy their health benefits!