Citrus surprises

Flavor and color treats are hiding inside these familiar-looking fruits. Here's how to use them
ANDREW BAKER

Citrus Tarts

Citrus Pastry Cream

Sichuan Orange Chicken

Blood Orange Sauce

Meyer Lemon-Blood Orange Marmalade

Citrus Herb Salad

Citrus Spritzer

Sometimes, things are not what they seem.

A casual glance at the citrus above doesn't reveal their true identities. Cara Cara navel oranges present no surface evidence that their segments are a rosy color. The pummelo resembles an oversize grapefruit, but beneath its thick peel, the segments are sweet and mild ― without a trace of grapefruit bitterness. Melogolds and Oroblancos, both grapefruit ringers, taste sweet. And blood oranges hint at their uniqueness only occasionally, when their skin is blushed red.

These and other less familiar citrus varieties are at their seasonal peak now. They are as versatile as their less exotic counterparts, but each brings a bonus of flavor, color, or textural nuances. Make use of these extras in the recipes that follow: Create a blood orange filling for a tart to show off the individuality of the fruit. Lay mild pummelo and sweet Melogold segments onto tender green herbs for a vibrant salad. Or enjoy a refreshing spritzer cooled by citrus juice ice cubes.

Choose these citrus fruits as you would any other. The fruit should feel heavy for its size, be firm (no soft spots), and show no signs of spoilage (such as mold). Blood oranges, Cara Cara navels, Melogolds, and Oroblancos usually contain few or no seeds; pummeloes usually have seeds.

Getting to know unusual citrus

Blood oranges are named for their red juice. The peel may be plain orange or tinged with a red blush: Coloration is characteristic of some varieties or may be due to environment; it's also affected by the season. The flesh may be ruby-red, an orange and red mix, or hardly red at all ― for the same reasons. Generally, the flavor of blood oranges is tarter than that of regular juice or navel oranges. The most common variety, Moro, usually has the reddest flesh; others are Sanguinelli and Tarocco. Blood oranges are available from early December to mid-May.

Cara Cara navel oranges, a natural mutation of the navel orange, have been grown in California and Florida since the late 1980s. The peel is orange, the flesh is pinkish to rosy orange, and the flavor is a little sweeter than that of the regular navel. These oranges are available from early December to April.

Melogolds and Oroblancos are different hybrids from pummelo and grapefruit parents. The fruit is harvested at its flavor prime, which may be while the peel is still green (but it will turn yellow). Melogolds are larger, heavier, and thinner-skinned than Oroblancos. While neither has the bitter bite of grapefruit, Oroblancos are juicier and sweeter than Melogolds. They are available from December to mid-April.

Pummeloes are a citrus variety often mistaken for grapefruit, but the fruit can be much, much larger, and either is round or has a peaked top. Under the peel, pale to medium yellow, is a very thick layer of white pith. The fruit segments, encased in papery membranes, are firm, pale yellow or slightly pink, and composed of distinct large juice sacs (vesicles) that can be gently separated. Extracting the segments requires some patience. The fruit's refreshing flavor has no bitterness, and it can be sweeter than that of grapefruit. Pummeloes are available from mid-November to March.