This large family of fruit includes among its members the citron, grapefruit, kumquat, lemon, lime, mandarin orange, oro blanco, pomelo, tangelo, tangerine and ugli fruit. Native to Asia, citrus fruits prefer tropical to temperate climates and thrive in many Central and South American countries, as well as the states of Arizona, California, Florida, Louisiana and Texas. All fresh citrus fruits share some degree of tartness and are rich in vitamin C. The rind, which contains numerous oil glands, and the fragrant blossoms of some species are also a source of essential oils used for perfumes and similar products.
Unlike other citrus-producing regions, most of the citrus grown in the California is destined for the fresh fruit market rather than processed for juice. The ideal climate permits the growth of fruit that is as pleasing to the eye as it is to the taste. Warm and sunny days, mild breezes and cool nights help create an environment where western citrus can be picked and shipped year-round. This makes fresh western citrus always available.
Vitamin C and Scurvy
Did you know that the word “ascorbic,” as in ascorbic acid (the name for vitamin C), means “no scurvy”?
The story of vitamin C began hundreds of years ago before the beginning of modern chemistry. Many people suffered from a disease called “spring sickness” or scorbutus. The symptoms were bleeding gums, loose teeth, aching joints, red spots on the skin, and decayed flesh. Today, this disease is known as scurvy.
Sailors were particularly susceptible to scurvy. In the last part of the eighteenth century, sauerkraut and citrus fruit were taken along on English ships bound on long voyages. Miraculously, these foods eliminated the disease. (Can you guess why British sailors are called “limeys”?) But it wasn’t until 1932 that the chemical in these foods, named ascorbic acid, was purified in a laboratory. It is found in many fresh fruits and vegetables; citrus is an excellent source.
Ascorbic acid, or vitamin C, is now known to be extremely important for the body’s manufacturing of collagen, the protein responsible for keeping cells, muscles, and bones connected to each other. A lack of collagen causes the cells of the tiniest blood vessels to separate and allows blood to leak into tissues, resulting in the bleeding gums and red splotches characteristic of scurvy.