Unusual Citrus

by National Gardening Association Editors

Home gardeners can enjoy many types of citrus fruits not found in most supermarkets. Here we suggest just a few unusual citrus types to inspire you to do more exploring. Follow the same general horticultural practices for these varieties as for the rest of the citrus family.

Blood Oranges

Once you have tasted a good blood orange, you will never forget its superb flavor, a cross between an orange and a raspberry. Their rind and flesh are a deep red color. Blood oranges are very popular in Europe and are grown commercially in Mediterranean citrus regions. They haven't caught on in the United States primarily because their coloration is a bit unpredictable. Climate plays an important role, but the exact requirements for the development of the pigmented rind and flesh are not known. Fruits grown in hot areas of California and Arizona usually develop the best color, but even their color intensity changes from year to year. You can grow blood oranges in Florida and along the Gulf Coast, but the color is not as reliable and the flavor is often less pronounced than in fruit grown in dry summer, Mediterranean-type climates. Fruit grown in cool coastal climates seldom develops deep colors. Regardless of color, blood oranges are worth growing for their unique flavor. Each of the three most common varieties grown, 'Moro', 'Sanguinetii', and 'Tarocco', has its own distinctive flavor.

Pummelos

As suggested by their botanical name. Citrus grandis, pummelos bear the largest fruit in the citrus family. They are usually compared to grapefruit because of their appearance; many people believe the pummelo may be one of the ancestors of the grapefruit. Supermarkets occasionally sell pummelos as Chinese grapefruit, a label that is probably confusing. Pummelos do not need as much heat as grapefruit and they can be grown in most citrus areas. The largest, sweetest fruit is produced in hot climates; in cooler areas, fruit wilt be smaller and have a thicker rind, but it's still quite good. The fruit's soft, thick rind encloses white or pink flesh. Peeling and eating one for the first time is a memorable experience. The rind tears off and segments separate easily, but the surprise is the way the juice vesicles (the part you scoop out of a grapefruit) separate from the membrane. There is no chewy membrane or bitter rind. The flavor is delicious - mildly sweet without the bitterness common to grapefruit. The texture is firmer than most citrus and there is less juice, but they're definitely not dry. Pummelos are excellent in fruit salads or by themselves. Two principal varieties of pummelo are grown in California and Arizona: 'Chandler' has pink flesh. 'Reinking' has white. Both trees are large and attractive.

Kumquat Hybrids

Kumquat hybrids can be grown in all citrus regions; kumquats are among the hardiest citrus. With this in mind, the USDA crossed kumquats with other popular types of citrus to create hardy kumquat hybrids. Two of these, orangequats and limequats, are beautiful ornamental trees ideal for fruit lovers in cold areas. The orangequat is a hybrid between the 'Satsuma' mandarin and the 'Meiwa' kumquat. It is eaten like a kumquat and has a mildly sweet rind and tart flesh. The fruit is larger than a kumquat, bright orange, and makes excellent marmalade. The tree is small but productive, with handsome foliage. The orangequat is an exceptional ornamental, ideal for containers. 'Nippon' is the only variety. Limequats are equally lovely trees, with light-green-to-yellow fruit borne in abundance. The fruits are juicy, with sweet rinds and tart flesh. They are an excellent lime substitute. 'Eustis' is a commonly available variety.

Mandarins

As a group, the mandarins offer the greatest diversity of varieties among citrus types. Some are available in supermarkets. Home gardeners can grow many more distinctively flavored varieties. Mandarins are usually very attractive trees, sometimes with willowy leaves. They are generally hardier than oranges, although ripe fruit can be damaged at 26&deg F to 28&deg F. With wise selection of varieties, you can harvest mandarins from November to June. Three varieties with outstanding flavor are 'Page', 'Encore', and 'Honey'.



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