As Mother Nature assaults the Northern climates with chill winds, sleet and snow, northerners can take comfort from the fact that she has thoughtfully provided the season’s bounty of citrus fruit from Southern latitudes. Oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, mandarins and tangelos are all tasty, loaded with vitamin C to help combat colds and flu, and even look warm and sunny, with their yellows, oranges and bright greens.
In Mexico, citrus fruit from the tropical areas is shipped north, as well as to cool, mountainous Central Mexico. Starting in November, the fruit punch vendor becomes a fixture in plazas in mountain towns and villages. Associated with the holiday season because it is a winter drink, ponche always features bright, sweet naranjas para jugo – juice oranges.
Oranges for juice are sold from pickups, station wagons, and the trunks of cars which drive up and down the streets of residential areas throughout the winter. The voice of the vendor competes with the static of his loudspeaker as he heralds the arrival of naranjaaaaas…naranjas para jugo, naranjas dulces. This cry is greeted by the neighborhood housewives lining up at the back of the truck, carrying shopping bags into which the oranges will be piled. Freshly squeezed orange juice is a morning fixture in Mexican households and corner juice stands at this time of year.
Besides the juice oranges, eating oranges and Seville oranges are the other two varieties found in Mexico. The eating oranges are large and sweet, and very similar to navel oranges. The Seville oranges, called naranja agria, or bitter orange, are used to make sauces and marinades, especially in the cooking of the Yucatan, as well as marmalades and liqueurs such as Triple Sec and Curaçao.
Another popular and delicious citrus fruit is the grapefruit, especially the large, deep red variety. In Oaxaca, women separate them into segments and painstakingly remove all of the membrane, selling bags and styrofoam plates of the sweet, glistening grapefruit segments as a street snack, with or without powdered chile.
The citrus fruit most associated with Mexico, though, is the ubiquitous lime. All over the country, limes are served with just about everything except coffee and dessert.
They are squeezed onto fruit salads, all kinds of tacos, seafood cocktails, fish dishes and roasted peanuts, as well as being liberally added to many kinds of soup. They are served with beer, especially Tecate, and squeezed in large amounts right into a glass of beer to make the drink known as a michelada. The rum and coke drink called a cuba is served with the addition of lime, and the delicious limonada preparada, made with lots of fresh lime juice, sugar and mineral water is one of the most refreshing combinations imaginable.
The following recipes, all using citrus fruit, are guaranteed to lift post-holiday spirits, as well as contributing a hefty dose of natural vitamins.
Yucatecan lime soup: Sopa de Lima
Mexican orange Chicken: Pollo en naranja
Mexican ancho chile salsa with orange juice: Salsa de Ancho con Jugo de Naranja
Yucatecan achiote paste: Pasta de achiote:
Mexican grapefruit salad: Ensalada de toronja: