Seasonal Citrus in the UP

Eating and preparing food in tandem with the seasons is said to have health benefits for the body, but it’s also a good way to accustom your palette to the best flavors that nature has to offer. At the Keweenaw Co-op, we’re in the midst of citrus season, when varieties of orange, grapefruit, lemon and lime are at their peak for flavor, color, and juiciness. It’s little late for the quintessential orange in the Christmas stocking, but just in time to paint our produce shelves with a rainbow of vibrancy, as sunny hues from warmer areas brighten up the cold, white days of winter in the Keweenaw.

The author, Lily Venable, with Produce Coordinator, Andy Whitman, at the Keweenaw Food Co-op

How Citrus Distribution Works

Originating from South and East Asia, acreages of citrus groves are found across the world in sunny subtropical climates. Most of the fresh citrus headed for Keweenaw Co-op this winter comes from California, as well as Arizona, Texas, and Mexico. In our region, fresh citrus from Florida is not as common, as most citrus grown in Florida goes to feed the Eastern seaboard, from Atlanta to New York, or heads for processing plants to be made into orange juice and other products.

Citrus season graces our shelves just before the rush of Spring, when relationships forged between the Co-op and local farmers mean produce from all corners of the Keweenaw. An aspect to coordinating the produce department, especially in the off-season when local produce isn’t as readily available in the Upper Peninsula, involves awareness of the entire American and even global food system.

“There’s different regions set up to produce crops on a large scale, and the regions shift from season to season,” explains Andy Whitman, local horticulturist and Produce Coordinator at the Keweenaw Co-op. “As one region’s harvests are maturing and fading, the new region is ramping up to start harvesting, so that we have a continuous supply of product.”

However, we tend to only notice these large-scale supply chain systems when something goes wrong, or the supply comes up short. California rain directly influenced this citrus season’s roll-in, with high winds uprooting thorns from surrounding forestry, causing a hiccup in the early-to-mid season. Currently, the rhythm has recovered, making a steady supply of varieties available now but expected to wane in early Spring.

At the Keweenaw Co-op

We’ve got exciting new varieties on the horizon, like sumo mandarins and the tangy triple-cross mandarin. We’re on the hunt for lemonade lemons from our distributors, a tantalizingly sweet and juicy lemon that you can eat plain. Follow the Keweenaw Co-op on social media to find out right when they arrive!

As if you weren’t excited enough, blood oranges stay on sale for Co-op members at just $2.69/lb for all of February, with low prices featured for organic citrus across the board.

Cooking with Citrus

For food preservers, now is the time to make your citrus-based jams, jellies, spreads and sauces, in order to enjoy those peak flavors all year round!

And as for the aspiring food preserver, don’t wait! Some of these fruits only make their way around once a year, including the juicy daisy mandarin, neon minneola tangerines, and Produce Coordinator Andy’s all-time favorite: white grapefruit.

Unique novelties like pink lemons and sweet limes are great for seasonal cocktails, but you can add citrus anywhere – to salads, cakes, or even stir-fry. If low-waste cooking is your jam (pun intended), plan to make one dish with the juice and another with the zest of the peel.

Even year-round varieties of citrus like lemons, your basic orange, and limes will be at peak flavor and juiciness, so don’t overthink it. The notable Cara Cara orange or juicy Daisy Mandarins are good for eating plain – or bringing home as a treat to your sweetheart.

Check out our special made-fresh-in-house recipe for citrus tortellini, available daily in our deli using premium organic ingredients! 

Orange Walnut Tortellini

Yields 2 lb.

Allergens: Milk, wheat, tree nuts, soy, egg, honey


  • 1 lb. tortellini of choice (we use cheese-filled)
  • 1 tsp sea salt


  • 1/4 c toasted walnuts (from our bulk section)
  • 1/4 c currants (from our bulk section)
  • 1/4 red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 tsp grated ginger 
  • 1/3 bunch parsley, chopped
  • 1 orange, zested and juiced
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1/8 c Tamari
  • 1/4 c balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp local honey
  • Sea salt to taste
  1. Bring a large pot of water and salt to boil, add tortellini and boil per package instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, toast the walnuts and roughly chop. Mix all of the dressing ingredients together. When the tortellini is ready, drain, rinse and cool. When cool, mix with dressing.
  3. For extra citrus zing, add one sectioned blood orange for flavor and color.

Happy citrus season to all who celebrate!

Lily Venable is the Social Media Coordinator at Taste the Local Difference and Produce Specialist at Keweenaw Co-op, and she loves citrus season. Andy Whitman is the the Produce Coordinator at the Keweenaw Co-op and notable local Plant Guy.