Farmers' Market Report: Valencia Oranges for Christmastime

Photo by Mike Tex

Nothing says Christmas like an orange-stuffed stocking. Sure, oranges may not be as enticing as the vast assortment of chocolate covered candies available this time of year, but the once-rare orange has served as a special Christmas tradition for centuries around the world. Here in Southern California our oranges are in season in December, so add a local treat to your holiday with some of these ideas.

To start off with, in December you'd be wise to pick Valencias for your old-school treat. According to Bernard Ranches at this week's Culver City Farmers' Market, Valencia oranges, unlike their sisters, the Navels, are finishing their season by the end of December. This means super-sweet and juicy fruit around the time when Santa and his reindeer make their rounds. So stock up on Valencias and stuff one in each of your family's stockings. Partake in a Christmas tradition noted even in Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" series.

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Once the presents have been opened and orange-stuffed stockings have lost their "a-peel" (sorry!) gather your Valencias for the most delicious and seasonal Christmas drink available: fresh-squeezed orange juice (spiked with vodka for the grownups, natch). If you don't have an electric juicer it'll take just a bit of elbow grease, but there's no better time than Christmas morning to add some extra effort into your breakfast.

There are plenty of other Christmas time uses for oranges. Clove-studded oranges add a unique holiday scent to the air, and orange segments tossed into green salads add a freshness missing from most menus at holiday time. You could always candy the peel with sugar or chocolate to really get into today's holiday spirit. Or, take inspiration from one of our citrus-filled recipes: a Spring Street cocktail, Sardines alla Piastra with Sicilian Citrus Salad, or Chiffon Cake with Orange Curd and Swiss Meringue.

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