Have you ever heard the term “so ugly, it’s cute”? Typically this refers to animals and babies, not to food. And it shouldn’t. Actually I’ve never seen anything so ugly that it became cute. Cats with no hair…ugly! Smashed up face dogs with ubers of wrinkles…ugly. Your newborn baby…sorry moms…ugly (but not forever of course). Croc shoes…ugly! But oh so comfortable. Just because something is ugly doesn’t mean that it’s not likable, lovable or delicious for that matter.
Consider food we grow ourselves, often not the ultimate specimen for the cover of a magazine, but nothing tastes better. Think about the food at the farmer’s market or the organic produce section, maybe what you receive in a CSA? Is it all beautiful? When shopping, we’ve been trained to look for the perfect specimen, to let the ones with a blemish sit in the bin until? Often staying there and never selling, wasted.
Well, you all know how I feel about waste! I decided to stop being picky and looking for the ‘photo perfect’ and pick some fruit that looked ugly, but interesting. Sometimes ugly is in this fruits genetic make-up. Blotchy skin, giant pimple like top, wrinkles and crevices, it’s all there. Every ugly detail, every ugly delicious detail.
The largest citrus pictured (far right) is the bastard of a love triangle, the child of the grapefruit (or pomelo), orange and tangerine. It comes from Jamaica. Someone was high on weed when they dreamed this up, and thank goodness! Mine had a beautiful yellow pulpy flesh with a tartness that reminded me of a lemon, but sweeter. It is quite large and had a strangely hollow center, not tight like other citrus, and it was sans seeds. Not surprisingly this Uniq fruit as it was labeled, is also well know as Ugli fruit.
My friend here, with the distinctive bump on top is also a hybrid. It’s part tangerine and grapefruit (or pomelo*). It lacks the 3rd fruit of a love triangle like the Uniq had and is distinctly more beautiful, other than the giant pimple like top. Like it’s above cousin, it is also less sweet, taking on some of that grapefruit tartness (which is fine in my book) but retaining the beautiful orange of the tangerine. This fruit with the bump is usually called a tangelo (probably from the pomelo name), it is also known as a Minneloa and Honeybell, I don’t know why.
Although the next guy, the one with the leaves and a deformed knobby top, looks like a tough guy but it’s actually quite delicate. This is the brain child of a Japanese citrus grower who wanted to combine the easy to peel Satsuma with the sweet California oranges. He ended up with what is touted as the “perfect” citrus fruit. It is known here in the states as a Sumo citrus. It’s easy to peel, seedless, super sweet, it also has very little albero (white netting), so it sections easily. A low mess sweet citrus! I didn’t know much about this variety, so I got most of my information here.
The last citrus, the one with the pebbly texture and golden color is called the Gold Nugget for obvious reasons. This variety is not a pure strain either, unlike the aforementioned crossbreeds, this hybrid is a marriage between two mandarins. The hybrid was created by University of California, Riverside to produce a longer fruiting tree, which was done successfully. It also produced a super sweet mandarin and the pebbly skin makes it easy to peel. The Gold Nugget is like other hybrids and is seedless, making it a good ‘pack in your lunch’ citrus. (source)
*Pomelo, pummelo, pumelo, Chinese grapefruit, and shaddock are all the same fruit.
All this ugliness is completely transformed in this beautiful citrus salad, proving that ugliness is only skin deep. Wait, I mean “beauty is on the inside, not the outside”. However that saying goes, these citrus could be the poster child for it.
You can use any combination of citrus to make this, I feel I got lucky with my choices, some super sweet and some on the tart side providing a good balance. The salt and cayenne bring out the sweetness. The cucumber, shallots and cilantro give it a nice crisp texture and herby flavor. A drizzle with olive oil adds another depth of flavor and makes it pleasantly slide around in your mouth. I added some lime zest and juice because you just can’t have enough citrus.
What I ended up with is the perfect light salad for Cinco de Mayo! Just picture a margarita or mojito with it. This salad was so good, this is almost embarrassing to say, but I ate the whole platter by myself! Based on my hogginess, when I make this for friends this weekend I will have to double the recipe so I can eat half and they can have the other half.
- 4 ugly citrus fruits, or any other you prefer, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1/2 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
- 1/2 lime, zest and juice
- Olive oil fro drizzling
- Cayenne pepper
- Fleur de sel (or other sea salt)
- Chopped fresh cilantro
- Arrange the citrus slices and cucumbers on a platter. Top with shallots and lime zest. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with cayenne pepper (to your taste) and the sea salt. Finish with the cilantro and squeeze the lime juice over the top.
- Peel off the zest before cutting the pith off and save the odd ends. Mix them with 2 cups water and 1 cup sugar, bring to a boil, stir until sugar is melted. Remove from heat and let steep overnight. Strain into a jar for an orange simple syrup.