Until Thursday, the two Austin-area locations of Central Market will be running what is essentially a jazzed-up supermarket promotion scheme: the Central Market Citrus Fest. For the event, the stores have been dressed with bright, smartly designed posters and crates upon crates of citrus. Past the produce section, special sections have been created in the meat and seafood markets, as well as in the cheese section and bakery, to display non-citrus edibles that have been boosted with citrus flavor, including candied-grapefruit cupcakes and lemon-infused olive oil.
For $60, I was able to grab more than 13 varieties of citrus as well as enough treats from the bakery and cheese sections to entertain two friends. Why not grab a cutting board and throw your own a citrus festival at home? Below, I share some of the best (and worst) finds from the festival.
The first citrus I sampled was the bergamot, a pretty little fruit whose name I recognized from a bevy of scented-candle containers. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t bode well: the fruit was fragrant and the taste complex, but the bergamot was far too sour to actually consume. I resolved to leave it to the candles and tossed it aside for the small Texas grapefruit. This little grapefruit was a standout: it’s not too sour, not too sweet and its rosy-orange innards shimmered like hard candy. Plus, unlike many of the citrus fruits on display at the festival, it’s local.
The Ugli fruit, on the other hand, hails from Jamaica. True to its name, the Ugli fruit has an exterior that undermines its edibleness. It sports a bumpy, thick rind with splotches of unfriendly-looking green. Cut open, it tastes just like an orange and bubbles with juice. I’d throw it in a vita mix (sans repulsive rind) to put a sunny spot in a gray day.
I move on to the most foreign-looking of my purchases, the finger lime. Finger limes, which look like tiny green peppers, come in sixes in plastic containers that look better fit for craft products than produce. An enigmatic instruction on the box says to “slice for rings, squeeze for pearls.” I go for the squeeze and find my cutting board awash with tiny, translucent pearls of fruit matter, which burst forth from the lime. I take some of these shimmering gems and slurp them up from my palm. They taste like nothing so much as parsley.
Beyond the produce department, lemon-infused treats abound. After sampling more than 13 varieties of citrus (standouts: the oro blanco grapefruit and the Cara Cara orange), I indulged in citrus treats from the bakery and cheese department, as well as the most expensive item of my citrus spree, Piano La Roma lemon-infused olive oil. The latter cost a whopping $14.99 for around 9 oz, but was the favorite item of the night. After tasting it, one friend exclaimed, “They should never make olive oil
In the bakery, the creme brulee and lemon macaroon are best skipped, as both tasted like they were trying too hard to be citrus-crazy. Same goes for the cheeses containing lemon. But be sure to grab a loaf of the buttery, challah-like lemon bread. The thick loaf was sweeter than it was sour, and its fluffy white interior had more than its fair share of fruity lemon flavor. I ate it straight from the bag, but I have a nagging suspicion that slicing it, toasting it and serving it with vanilla ice cream would make for the perfect winter treat.
The overall verdict? New New Year’s resolution: before it goes out of season, eat more citrus.