7 Unusual Citrus Fruits and How to Use Them

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By Anna Painter Posted January 29, 2016

Brighten your cooking repertoire during these chilly winter months by taking advantage of the abundance of unusual citrus fruits that show up in the markets at this time of year. All are delicious and fragrant in their own rights, and many can be easily substituted for more familiar favorites. 

Weighing in between two and four pounds, the yellow-green pomelo is one of the giants of the citrus world. Sporting a thick rind and pink flesh, the pomelo tastes rather like a lightly sweet grapefruit. Try it in this refreshing Pomelo-Mint Mojito or in place of the grapefruit in this Grapefruit and Escarole Salad.

Cut into a bergamot and you will immediately smell the essential oil often used to give Earl Grey and Lady Grey teas their distinctive floral scents. A kind of bitter orange, a bergamot is too sour to eat, but its unique aroma adds character to marmalades, curds and a variety of baked goods. Make a memorable curd by swapping bergamot for some or all of the lemons in Andrew Zimmern’s lemon curd. Add a tea-like flavor to Emily Farris’s lemon shortbread cookies by using bergamot zest in place of lemon zest.

Finger Limes
Available from late July through January, tiny finger limes have a lot to offer, both in flavor and aesthetic appeal. The slender fruit can be bright green, but don’t be turned off by finger limes that are dark brown or purple in color. (The dark color indicates that the fruit grew in a cooler climate.) You can use the zest as you would lime zest, but the inside of the fruit is the real treat. Halve the limes lengthwise, and pop out the citrus pearls. The pearls, looking very much like pale pink caviar, have a pleasant crunch and a bright, acidic flavor. An elegant garnish for raw oysters or the perfect addition to your avocado toast!

Ugli Fruit
The ugli fruit, a Jamaican tangelo, is almost worth trying for the name alone. The thick, wrinkled peel hides sweet orange fruit. To prepare it, use a sharp knife to peel the ugli fruit, removing all of the bitter white pith. Working over a bowl, cut in between the membranes to release the sections. Swap it in for some or all of the oranges in this Spicy Orange and Jicama salad.  

Buddha’s Hand
If ugli fruit has the best name, the bright yellow Buddha’s Hand definitely has the best outfit. More than the ultimate fruit-bowl conversation piece, this unusual fruit has a delicate perfume and a number of uses. The mild, aromatic pith makes delicious candied citrus zest. (Use Jacques Pepin’s recipe, swapping ¼-inch thick slices of Buddha’s hand for the grapefruit.) Thinly sliced Buddha’s hand can also be used to add flavor to sugar, salt or vodka. 

The kumquat, an olive-sized fruit, is something of a contradiction. Unlike many citrus fruits, you can eat the entire thing—skin, seeds and all—and the skin tends to be sweeter while the flesh packs a tart punch. Because kumquats can keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator, you will have plenty of time to try them candied on a cake, thinly sliced in a salad or in a tangy mojito

Variegated Pink Lemons
Available from October until February, the variegated pink lemon has a yellow- and green-streaked skin that becomes a deeper yellow as it ripens. Sadly the pink fruit doesn’t yield a similarly hued juice. Consider using the whole fruit to make a colorful version of Eric Ripert’s Lemon Confit

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