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The main squeeze

Published January 19, 2005

[Times photo: Patty Yablonski]

Oranges, lemons and grapefruit, oh my. What are you going to do with the bumper crop of fruit hanging from your trees?

The backyard citrus season is in full-tilt boogie. Drive down any street in your town and you'll see old trees, new trees, trees that live in pots, and every one is heavy with fruit.

Eating half a grapefruit for breakfast and an orange for lunch won't even put a dent in the supply. You've got to get more creative. But you also have to pick the fruit first, or pay a neighborhood kid to scamper up the ladder. (Check your insurance policy first.)

Rather than cursing the former homeowner who planted those citrus trees, raise a glass of juice to free vitamin C and fiber. Or you can always learn to juggle.

Here are 10 ideas to make the most of your Sunshine State crop.

- Janet K. Keeler, Times food editor

MARINADE. Use key lime juice in marinades for pork, lemon with seafood and grapefruit or orange with beef. The juice's acid tenderizes meat while imparting fresh flavor.

VINAIGRETTE. Use citrus juice in place of vinegar for salad dressings. Citrus-laced dressings are especially tasty on salads of greens and fruits.

DRINKS. From fresh-squeezed orange juice to lemonade, citrus is a great refresher. Brighten water with slices of lemon and lime. Put key lime wedges in your Diet Coke; maybe add rum. Make cocktails such as mojitos and margaritas. Look for recipes and other drink ideas at

BAKED GOODS. Make blueberry muffins, add lemon zest. Bake a coconut cake, add lime zest. Spike chocolate cookies with orange zest. And don't forget icing. It needs flavor, too.

BREAKFAST ZING. Get out the microplane and make fine shavings of citrus peel for waffles and pancake batter.

ICE COLD. Use the fresh juice to make sorbets or granita.

SALSAS. A squeeze of citrus melds fresh fruit and vegetable relishes. Mix chopped strawberry, cucumber, jalapeno pepper (or not), red bell pepper and cilantro, then blast it all with fresh tangelo juice. Serve with grilled fish, seafood and chicken.

EDGY VEGGIES. Prevent cut potatoes, bananas and apples from browning by squeezing citrus over them. Squeeze lemon juice over sauteed spinach. Scatter pieces of orange or lemon peel into cooked broccoli.

BUTTER UP. Use citrus for compound butter. For example, make Lemon-Dill butter by softening 1 stick of butter and mix in 2 tablespoons each of minced, fresh dill weed and minced lemon zest. Make a log or put butter in crock. Refrigerate until firm.

DECORATION. When you're tired of eating citrus, use it for decoration. Put a mixture of whatever you have in vases, place them in the middle of the table with their greenery or float in a glass cylinder of water with big branches pushing out. Or crack up your kids with an orange peel smile.

[Last modified January 18, 2005, 16:44:39]

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