The longest dark night of the year approaches, and with it comes the many ways we human beings celebrate our return toward the light. Many of us associate this time of year with the clear, crisp, sweet fragrance of citrus. The fruit has ancient roots, as witness its symbolism in diverse cultures over the millennia. All varieties of citrus fruit descended from four ancestral species – the citron, pummelo, mandarine, and papeda - which originated in what is now Southeast Asia. Fossilized leaves discovered in China’s Yunnan Province in 2009 and 2011 suggest citrus has existed since the late Miocene epoch, as many as seven million years ago. A fruit with such an ancient lineage deserves a place at our holiday tables. Here are five ways you can include citrus in your winter celebrations.
1. Citrus Wreath. All kinds of instructions for making a wreath bedecked with small tangerines, or slices of lemons and oranges, can be found online or in a good crafting book. BookPeople and the local public library carry a great section of crafts books to peruse. Or you might get lucky and find a ready-made wreath at the Pritchard Gallery, or at the Essential Art Gallery and Giftshop.
2. Tangerine peel tea. Have you eaten a little too much Buche de Noel? One latkes too many got your belly churning? Overdone the eggnog? Try some tangerine peel tea. Known in Chinese herbal medicine as Chen Pi, an infusion made with the dried peel of a tangerine can settle indigestion and relieve fullness and bloating. Simply peel a tangerine, place the peel on the windowsill in the sunlight for a few days, til it’s dry, steep in boiled water for 10 minutes, then sip.
3. It’s cold outside, so the ‘tis the season for indoor activities with the kids! Citrus crafts nicely fill the bill. An adult should cut thin slices of orange and lemon, bake in 200 degree oven for 3 to 4 hours til dry and just brown around the edges. The kids can then sew a length of yarn or ribbon through each slice, and hang them on trees or in windows. Or make a pomander ball using oranges and cloves. You can find detailed instructions on http://www.simplebites.net/how-to-make-spiced-orange-pomander-balls/ .
4. And what is a celebration without cake? Recipes abound for citrus cakes. This spice cake with orange filling (http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/spice-cake-with-citrus-filling) looks enticing to me and I’m heading to the Co-op for ingredients.
5. Need a gift for friends or family? How about lemon curd or orange marmalade, given in a jar with a homemade label. I found a simple recipe on http://thepioneerwoman.com/food-and-friends/how-to-make-lemon-curd/.
While it would be hard to find locally grown lemons and oranges on the Palouse in December, we can call on our favorite farmer for local eggs and butter to use in our recipes. For creative labels to grace our gift jars, put the kids to work with paper and watercolors.
In feng shui, it is believed that citrus fruits can ward off bad luck. As a tea or a good luck charm, a decoration, a cake or a jam – any way you slice it, the time honored citrus adds fragrance and tart sweetness to our celebrations. See you in the Co-op’s produce aisle! And may the season bring you joy.