Your Guide to Citrus Season


written by Meghan Perkins, registered dietitian

Winter is here, which means citrus fruit is at its sweetest, juiciest, and most nutritious. It also means the grocery store is packed with oranges, grapefruits, lemons, tangelos, blood oranges, limes, kumquats, clementines, satsumas, Meyer lemons, and more… and the price is right! Now’s a great time to take advantage of winter’s bounty.

Buying and Storing Citrus Fruit

Choose fruits that have a firm peel and feel heavy for their size—they will be the juiciest. Keep them on the counter if you’ll eat them within a few days, or in the fridge (in the produce drawer or a mesh bag) for longer. Room-temperature fruit will yield the most juice.

If you find yourself with a real citrus surplus, you can store the juice and zest in plastic bags in the freezer for months.

Curious about the difference between orange varieties, or some of the more obscure citrus fruits? Check out this winter citrus primer.

Good-For-You Benefits

Citrus fruits provide lots of vitamin C. And right now, while they’re fresh and in-season, they contain the most of this essential nutrient. Our bodies don’t produce vitamin C, so it’s important to eat foods that contain it because:

  • It supports immune function and helps reduce the length and severity of cold symptoms
  • It improves absorption of iron from plant sources
  • It helps the body make collagen, a protein that keeps our skin smooth and elastic and builds connective tissue, cartilage, and blood vessels
  • It helps protect our bones and teeth
  • It’s a powerful antioxidant that protects against free radical damage and inflammation, which may help delay and reduce the risk of diseases like cancer and heart disease and support healthier aging

Citrus fruits are also a good source of fiber, which aids digestion and can help decrease cholesterol.

Remember that some citrus fruits—especially grapefruit—can interact with medications, and if you have a health condition, you may need to limit certain nutrients. Always talk to your doctor or dietitian before making significant changes to your diet.

Eating Citrus

Many citrus fruits, of course, are easy to peel or slice and eat on their own. Some, like grapefruit, are a bit trickier to get in to—try this trick for segmenting the fruit (it’s way easier than trying to dig out little bites… and doesn’t require a grapefruit spoon).

And when you get tired of eating them on their own?

Now’s also a great time to preserve citrus to use at a later date. Try Chef Summer’s super-easy method for preserving lemons—all you need is some salt and a jar.