Infinite Zest: Seize Your Citrus Moment
Citrus sells, with big flavor from mandarins to Meyer lemons
We’ll go beyond lemonade, with some tangy ideas for squeezing every drop of opportunity from an ever flourishing crop of specialty citrus. A check in with Joan Wickham at Sunkist confirms that citrus is making major moves across the menu, from upscale to fast-casual. Not just the flesh and juice, she says, but increasingly the peel is coming to life in salads, baked goods, cocktails and mocktails, or candied for an elegant garnish. Others are charring the flesh of the citrus, bringing out a savory, rich flavor, making a fantastic garnish for meat and vegetable dishes, as well as a perfect base for fruit drinks and cocktails.
One of the most popular is the Meyer lemon, a cross between a regular lemon and a mandarin. “They’re a bit sweeter and less acidic than regular lemons with a refreshing herbal scent, and have a thin, tender rind that gives them a smooth, soft feel,” says Wickham. Meyer lemon is adding its own unique zestiness to every dish it graces, including frozen yogurt, grilled chicken with chimichurri sauce and a sorrel pesto rice bowl.
Richly pink from the presence of lycopene, Cara Cara oranges are also juicing up menus this spring. The versatile, seedless fruit packs quite a nutritious punch, boasting 20 percent more Vitamin C and nearly 30 percent more Vitamin A than regular navel oranges. Their super sweetness is used to great effect in tartare with jasmine sorbet, an orange rosemary shortbread with white chocolate and a golden beet salad.
How to prep your own citrus classic? “The whole fruit can be broken down and stored to use across the menu,” says Wickham. She recommends zesting before juicing and freezing some zest for future use as well.
When life hands you lemons… start making plans to use it on your menu.
11% increase in mentions of Meyer lemons on Top 500 menus over the past year.*
14% higher price for salads mentioning Meyer lemon as an ingredient.*
260% increase in Cara Cara oranges mentions since 2013*
85% of consumers who try Cara Cara oranges make repeat purchases
*Source: Dataessential & Sunkist