The taste is varied and full of zest. Prepare to be dazzled, prepare to be dazzled, however we warn you, we citrus masters are masters of disguise and sleight of hand experts. You think you’re familiar with us, but no, you’re not.
Behold this card deck. A different one of us is pictured on each card: kumquat, kaffir lime, eureka lemon, satsuma mandarin, tangelo, star ruby grapefruit and orange from Valencia. What names! Whatever! What blazing hues and sweet, light juiciness! Not to boast, but did you ever come across one of us that you didn’t like? Well, there was that bitter orange you had the bad sense to bite into once – we confess, we can be astringent.
All that variety, though, is only an illusion. Choose a card here. Ah! Ah! As heavy as a softball in your side and bittersweet on your lips, you’ve got grapefruit. So differentiate between inct I ve and still, what is that? Your grapefruit is nothing but a cross between a delicious orange and a pomelo!
This sleight of hand is our greatest trick, you see. All of our combinations, shades, shapes and f lavours are nothing more than a shuffling of our four basic building blocks-the citrus spade, club, diamond and heart, if you like. And can you guess the fab four, dear audience? Not an opportunity, not a chance! They are pomelo, mandarin, papeda and citron.
Before nature and people crossed them over and over again to create a citrus range, they all have their origins in Asia. Loving squeezing lemon out of your dinner with fish? In fact, it is a lemon crossed with a bitter orange. In your guacamole, like a shot of lime? Nothing but a lemon raised with a key lime, a papeda-citron hybrid of its own. And that sweet orange-begetting grapefruit? It’s merely a combo of pomelo and mandarin.
The reality is, we just can’t help ourselves, folks. All too quickly, we cross-pollinate. The flowers of an orange tree can be fertilized by grapefruit pollen; lemon pollen can mingle with clementine blossoms. When an innocent person plants a lemon seed just to have a different kind of citrus tree entirely, one of our favorite pranks is. Or one lined with thorns and no fruit whatsoever! In part, since our pollen contributes different genes to every seed (similar to how two human parents can produce an infinitely varied set of children), we are amazingly unpredictable. Forget to take a rabbit out of a hat, you have no idea what the hat is carrying with me!
You smart humans weren’t entirely fooled. You learned to graft branches, say, of the desired lemon tree, onto rootstock to bypass the unpredictability, to breed the exact varieties of us you needed. Cool!
You’ve even decoded our juice mystery. In less than a day’s time, our fresh-squeezed nectar literally becomes undrinkably bitter. Until World War II, this was a chronic problem. Then some smart-pants scientists from the US Army, keen to protect troops from scurvy, offered a deal to anyone who made a vitamin C-rich compact, potable frozen orange juice. (It transforms into a foul brownish liquid simply by freezing fresh orange juice.) The US Department of Agriculture discovered how to concentrate the liquid without heating it, then, presto! Prior to freezing the whole concoction, add a touch of fresh juice for flavor.
The war was over by this time, so orange juice was sold to the public. Yet no one has gone for it. That was when Bing Crosby, that old Hollywood crooner, did some of his own magic. Crosby promised to put in a good word for it each morning on his CBS radio show in exchange for company stock and cash at Minute Maid, the US company behind the orange juice. And that’s how I became a staple all over the world on breakfast tables.
Your efforts to keep fresh orange juice without freezing were also cunning. When juice loses its freshness, a disappearing act is its sweetness-it actually disappears when the juice becomes sour. Your technologists, however, had something up their own sleeves: additives that approximate the freshly squeezed taste of the ‘not concentrated’ stuff in your fridge.
One last trick, mates, to close out the display. We had you riveted on our juicy segments this whole time, distracting you from seeing … the citrus peels in our palms all the time. Watch now as we pinch them deftly to unleash a fine spray of oil. Smell it? These are the scents of ours. By scratching our exterior or squeezing a twist of skin into a drink, enjoy them. To be frank, ladies and gents, this is the zestiest bit of magic. Drink up and stay healthy.
Check out my related post: What is the King and Queen of Fruits?