Here's what I learned about oranges in Costa Rica: there is a different variety of oranges growing here that I have never seen before in my life. One morning this week I needed an orange to make a batch of Bernice's French Dressing, and so I asked my husband to get us a taxi for the Mega Super market downtown.
As we were talking about it, a street vendor came by with oranges, among other things. We bought a bag of oranges from him, but my husband paid and when he brought them back, they turned out to be oranges, I guess, but bright green like limes.
I went ahead and used them--the salad dressing turned out fine--but here is what they were like. Although they are orange-sized, they are yellow inside, much like Key Limes. Key Limes are very small, as you know, about the size of ping-pong balls or slightly larger. Their name is derived from the Florida Keys, where they seem to have first been discovered and cultivated.
We went up to San Jose yesterday, and as the bus passed through the streets I saw many lime trees ready to be harvested, with fruit hanging on the branches that were big enough to see clearly. So I asked our hotel manager about the orange that we had, and he told me about Naranjas Criollas.
What I think of as oranges--like the juicy guys from California that I buy all the time in Tucson and juice up with my citrus juicer--are referred to as Naranjadas in Latin America. There are two principal kinds of oranges, or Naranjas, in Costa Rica (and more generally in Central America): Naranjas Criollas and Naranjas Malaguenas. The Criollas, which I bought, come from trees that grow wild all over Central America; no one cultivates them except possibly when they find a young tree, dig it up and plant it on their property. Other than that you don't even need to water them--not that they don't get plenty of water in Costa Rica. They yield the big, green oranges every season all by themselves.
According to our manager, the Malaguena oranges were originally imported from Spain. I have not yet bought any, so I can't say much about them. However, be on the lookout for the slide show that I will put up as soon as I am in Tucson to download the photos that I am taking with my telephone camera. My American cell phone cannot connect down here--I have a message on the screen that always says "searching for service" and that will continue until I hit Phoenix.
The limes in Costa Rica seem to be a variety that I have not seen a lot of in Tucson as well. They are large but yellow inside. When in Tucson I always buy Mexican limes, which are larger than other varieties of limes, round, seedless and green inside. They are my favorite in the sour-citrus group and I use them in place of lemons most of the time (except for Lemon Bar cookies)
Citrus fruit has become more interesting since I arrived in Costa Rica, and as I take my photos and shop, things are only beginning to open up to me. I don't know what I would have done if I were unable to just go to the neighborhood stores in Puntarenas and ask questions, deciding what to buy and trying new things at the hotel where I am able to cook. Well, I know one thing for sure--I would not have learned a fraction of what I am learning now.