Scott Bauer, USDA
Scott Bauer, USDA

Know Your Citrus

Scott Bauer, USDA
Scott Bauer, USDA

As winter approaches, you might notice that peaches and plums are disappearing from the produce aisle, and berry prices are going through the roof. But look! The new citrus fruit is here to give us a taste of the tropics in time for the winter holidays. Citrus fruits all belong to the genus Citrus, and can be hybridized with each other. The citrus fruits we know were developed from just a few that occur in the wild, including citron, pomelo, and mandarin. The variety of citrus fruits we encounter at the grocery store in the winter months are mostly hybridized from those species and their descendants.


Photograph by Johann Werfring.

Citron (Citrus medica) is the citrus fruit that gave “citrus” its name. Records of the fruit go back thousands of years in Mesopotamia, although its origin may be India or Southeast Asia. Citron is more temperature-sensitive than other commercial citrus grown in the U.S. but flourishes in South America and the coastal areas of the Mediterranean. Americans are mostly familiar with citron as a candied ingredient in fruitcake, made from the fruit’s peel.


Photograph by Forest & Kim Starr.

The pomelo (Citrus grandis) is the largest of all citrus fruits. They can grow up to nine inches in diameter and weigh over four pounds! Pomelos are native to Southeast Asia, but are gaining popularity worldwide. They appear green or yellow when ripe, and the flesh is white or shades of pink. The taste is like a sweet grapefruit, and in fact, grapefruit is sometimes called pomelo and the pomelo is sometimes called Chinese grapefruit, although they are different fruits.


Photograph by Flickr user Lotte Grønkjær.

The mandarin (Citrus reticulata), or mandarin orange, is one of the oldest citrus fruits, and the ancestor of many other fruits we know. It is a small, sweet-tasting orange originating in Southeast Asia. Mandarins are also distinct from oranges in that they are easy to peel. It has some close relatives that are sometimes hard to distinguish. Tangerines (Citrus tangerina) are closely related to mandarin oranges, although the name is usually reserved for the more reddish fruit. They are named after the city of Tangier, Morocco, from where they were exported to Europe. Clementines (Citrus ×clementina) are hybrids developed from crossing a Mandarin orange and a sweet orange. They are sweeter than tangerines, but just as easy to peel. Clementines are usually seedless, and are sometimes referred to as “seedless mandarins.”


Photograph by Morlawmina.

Oranges (Citrus sinensis) are the citrus fruit we are most familiar with. They do not exist in the wild, but were cultivated in Asia since ancient times. It is thought that the first oranges were hybrids of the pomelo and the mandarin. Oranges were brought to the Middle East in the 9th century, and into Italy by 11th-century Crusaders. By the 15th century, they had been introduced to Europe, and soon after, trees were being grown in the Caribbean Islands and in Florida. However, orange trees are temperature sensitive and the fruit was difficult to transport over long distances, so the fruit was rather expensive for most people. They were considered a real treat for the holidays, which explains their association with Christmas. Your parents or grandparents will likely remember how special it was to see an orange in the toe of their Christmas stocking.

That changed in the 1920s, when canned orange juice began to be marketed as a health drink. Vitamins were pushed as the new miracle cure, and the National Fruit Growers Exchange took advantage of the craze to promote orange juice. But orange juice didn’t really take off until frozen orange juice concentrate was developed in 1948. Frozen concentrate could be shipped all over at a fraction of the price of whole oranges, without spoiling. Plus, the growers’ orange crops could be preserved year-round. Orange juice was pushed as a natural and healthy breakfast drink, a campaign which worked wondrously. However, in the past decade, sales of orange juice are down in comparison with other juices and fresh fruit.


Image by א (Aleph).

Grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi) is a hybrid derived from pomelos and sweet oranges. It is believed to have been an accidental hybrid arising in Barbados and Jamaica in the 18th century. The name came from the tendency of the fruits to grow in clusters resembling huge grapes. The grapefruit was a novelty fruit outside of Florida until the 1930s, when the Grapefruit Diet was introduced. The diet recommended that a half a grapefruit be eaten before each meal. Those on the diet lost weight, but it wasn’t because grapefruit enzymes burned fat, as was often said. It was more likely because the low-calorie grapefruit filled the dieter’s stomach, causing them to eat less of other foods.


Photograph by Gareth Bogdanoff.

A tangelo (Citrus X tangelo) is a hybrid derived from crossing a mandarin and a grapefruit. Tangelos are juicy, brightly-colored, and have a loose peel that’s easy to remove. They also have a distinctive “neck” that protrudes from the sphere. Ugli fruit is a variety of tangelo with a not-quite spherical shape, believed to have been an accidental hybrid of grapefruit and mandarin that occurred in Jamaica around 1917.


Photograph by Flickr user Choo Yut Shing.

Kumquats (Citrus japonica) are tiny, oval-shaped citrus fruits. Sometimes the fruit is placed in the genus Fortunella instead of citrus. Kumquat trees are hardier than other citrus plants and can be grown at more northern latitudes. The fruit can be eaten whole, peel and all, except for the seeds. They are also pickled, candied, and used to flavor tea.


Photogaph by Flickr user Susy Morris.

Lemons (Citrus × limon) possibly originated in India, and are thought to be a hybrid of the citron and the bitter orange. Lemons are so acidic that they are used as flavoring and as an acidic preservative rather than a fruit. As Peter, Paul, & Mary put it: 

Lemon tree, very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the lemon is impossible to eat.


Photograph by Steve Hopson.

The name lime encompasses about a dozen species of citrus fruit that are generally green and lemon-shaped. They are almost as acidic as lemon but have their own distinct flavor. Like lemons, they are mainly used as a flavoring agent. In 1747, British Royal Navy surgeon Dr. James Lind discovered that citrus fruits could prevent scurvy, a disease which particularly afflicted sailors who spent months at sea. In 1795, the navy began carrying lemons to provide sailors with vitamin C. However, limes were easier to get in the Caribbean islands ruled by the British, so they switched to limes. It was only later found that lemons have two to four times the vitamin C of limes, depending on the variety.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA
12 Surprising Facts About Robin Williams
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA

Robin Williams had a larger-than-life personality. On screen and on stage, he embodied what he referred to as “hyper-comedy.” Offscreen, he was involved in humanitarian causes and raised three children—Zak, Zelda, and Cody. On July 16, HBO debuts the documentary Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, directed by Marina Zenovich. The film chronicles his rise on the L.A. and San Francisco stand-up comedy scenes during the 1970s, to his more dramatic roles in the 1980s and '90s in award-winning films like Dead Poets Society; Good Morning, Vietnam; Awakenings; The Fisher King; and Good Will Hunting. The film also focuses on August 11, 2014, the date of his untimely death. Here are 12 surprising facts about the beloved entertainer.


A still from 'Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind' (2018)

After leaving Juilliard, Robin Williams found himself back in his hometown of San Francisco, but he couldn’t find work as an actor. Then he saw something for a comedy workshop in a church and decided to give it a shot. “So I went to this workshop in the basement of a Lutheran church, and it was stand-up comedy, so you don’t get to improvise with others, but I started off doing, ostensibly, it was just like improvising but solo," he told NPR. "And then I started to realize, ‘Oh.’ [I started] building an act from there."


In 2001, Williams visited Koko the gorilla, who passed away in June, at The Gorilla Foundation in Northern California. Her caregivers had shown her one of his movies, and she seemed to recognize him. Koko repeatedly signed for Williams to tickle her. “We shared something extraordinary: laughter,” Williams said of the encounter. On the day Williams died, The Foundation shared the news with Koko and reported that she fell into sadness.


In 1974, photographer Daniel Sorine captured photos of two mimes in New York's Central Park. As it turned out, one of the mimes was Williams, who was attending Juilliard at the time. “What attracted me to Robin Williams and his fellow mime, Todd Oppenheimer, was an unusual amount of intensity, personality, and physical fluidity,” Sorine said. In 1991, Williams revisited the craft by playing Mime Jerry in Bobcat Goldthwait’s film Shakes the Clown. In the movie, Williams hilariously leads a how-to class in mime.


As a teen, Lisa Jakub played Robin Williams’s daughter Lydia Hillard in Mrs. Doubtfire. “When I was 14 years old, I went on location to film Mrs. Doubtfire for five months, and my high school was not happy,” Jakub wrote on her blog. “My job meant an increased workload for teachers, and they were not equipped to handle a ‘non-traditional’ student. So, during filming, they kicked me out.”

Sensing Jakub’s distress over the situation, Williams typed a letter and sent it to her school. “A student of her caliber and talent should be encouraged to go out in the world and learn through her work,” he wrote. “She should also be encouraged to return to the classroom when she’s done to share those experiences and motivate her classmates to soar to their own higher achievements … she is an asset to any classroom.”

Apparently, the school framed the letter but didn’t allow Jakub to return. “But here’s what matters from that story—Robin stood up for me,” Jakub wrote. “I was only 14, but I had already seen that I was in an industry that was full of back-stabbing. And it was entirely clear that Robin had my back.”


Anson Williams, Marion Ross, and Don Most told The Hallmark Channel that a different actor was originally hired to play Mork for the February 1978 Happy Days episode “My Favorite Orkan,” which introduced the alien character to the world. “Mork & Mindy was like the worst script in the history of Happy Days. It was unreadable, it was so bad,” Anson Williams said. “So they hire some guy for Mork—bad actor, bad part.” The actor quit, and producer Garry Marshall came to the set and asked: “Does anyone know a funny Martian?” They hired Williams to play Mork, and from September 1978 to May 1982, Williams co-headlined the spinoff Mork & Mindy for four seasons.


Actor Robin Williams poses for a portrait during the 35th Annual People's Choice Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on January 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California
Michael Caulfield, Getty Images for PCA

In 1988, Williams made his professional stage debut as Estragon in the Mike Nichols-directed Waiting for Godot, which also starred Steve Martin and F. Murray Abraham. The play was held off-Broadway at Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center. The New York Times asked Williams if he felt the show was a career risk, and he responded with: “Risk! Of never working on the stage again! Oh, no! You’re ruined! It’s like you're ruined socially in Tustin,” a town in Orange County, California. “If there’s risk, you can’t think about it,” he said, “or you’ll never be able to do the play.”

Williams had to restrain himself and not improvise during his performance. “You can do physical things,” he said, “but you don’t ad lib [Samuel] Beckett, just like you don’t riff Beethoven.” In 1996, Nichols and Williams once again worked together, this time in the movie The Birdcage.


The 1992 success of Aladdin, in which Williams voiced Genie, led to more celebrities voicing animated characters. According to a 2011 article in The Atlantic, “Less than 20 years ago, voice acting was almost exclusively the realm of voice actors—people specifically trained to provide voices for animated characters. As it turns out, the rise of the celebrity voice actor can be traced to a single film: Disney’s 1992 breakout animated hit Aladdin.” Since then, big names have attached themselves to animated films, from The Lion King to Toy Story to Shrek. Williams continued to do voice acting in animated films, including Aladdin and the King of Thieves, Happy Feet, and Happy Feet 2.


In March 1998, Williams won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting. In 2011, Williams appeared on The Graham Norton Show, and Norton asked him what it was like to win the award. “For a week it was like, ‘Hey congratulations! Good Will Hunting, way to go,'” Williams said. “Two weeks later: ‘Hey, Mork.’”

Then Williams mentioned how his speech accidentally left out one of the most important people in his life. “I forgot to thank my mother and she was in the audience,” he said. “Even the therapist went, ‘Get out!’ That was rough for the next few years. [Mom voice] ‘You came through here [points to his pants]! How’s the award?’”


At this year’s 25th anniversary screening of Schindler’s List, held at the Tribeca Film Festival, director Steven Spielberg shared that Williams—who played Peter Pan in Spielberg’s Hook—would call him and make him laugh. “Robin knew what I was going through, and once a week, Robin would call me on schedule and he would do 15 minutes of stand-up on the phone,” Spielberg said. “I would laugh hysterically, because I had to release so much.”


During a June 2018 appearance on The Graham Norton Show, Ethan Hawke recalled how, while working on Dead Poets Society, Williams was hard on him. “I really wanted to be a serious actor,” Hawke said. “I really wanted to be in character, and I really didn’t want to laugh. The more I didn’t laugh, the more insane [Williams] got. He would make fun of me. ‘Oh this one doesn't want to laugh.’ And the more smoke would come out of my ears. He didn’t understand I was trying to do a good job.” Hawke had assumed Williams hated him during filming.

After filming ended, Hawke went back to school, but he received a surprising phone call. It was from Williams’s agent, who—at Williams's suggestion—wanted to sign Hawke. Hawke said he still has the same agent today.


In February 1988, Williams told Rolling Stone how he sometimes still had to audition for roles. “I read for a movie with [Robert] De Niro, [Midnight Run], to be directed by Marty Brest,” Williams said. “I met with them three or four times, and it got real close, it was almost there, and then they went with somebody else. The character was supposed to be an accountant for the Mafia. Charles Grodin got the part. I was craving it. I thought, ‘I can be as funny,’ but they wanted someone obviously more in type. And in the end, he was better for it. But it was rough for me. I had to remind myself, ‘Okay, come on, you’ve got other things.’”

In July 1988, Universal released Midnight Run. Just two years later, Williams finally worked with De Niro, on Awakenings.


Actors Robin Williams (L) and Billy Crystal pose at the afterparty for the premiere of Columbia Picture's 'RV' on April 23, 2006 in Los Angeles, California
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Starting in 1986, Williams, Billy Crystal, and Whoopi Goldberg co-hosted HBO’s Comic Relief to raise money for the homeless. Soon after Williams’s death, Crystal went on The View and spoke with Goldberg about his friendship with Williams. “We were like two jazz musicians,” Crystal said. “Late at night I get these calls and we’d go for hours. And we never spoke as ourselves. When it was announced I was coming to Broadway, I had 50 phone messages, in one day, from somebody named Gary, who wanted to be my backstage dresser.”

“Gary” turned out to be Williams.

Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind premieres on Monday, July 16 at 8 p.m. ET on HBO.

Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images
How a Hairdresser Found a Way to Fight Oil Spills With Hair Clippings
Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images
Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images

The Exxon Valdez oil tanker made global news in 1989 when it dumped millions of gallons of crude oil into the waters off Alaska's coast. As experts were figuring out the best ways to handle the ecological disaster, a hairdresser from Alabama named Phil McCroy was tinkering with ideas of his own. His solution, a stocking stuffed with hair clippings, was an early version of a clean-up method that's used at real oil spill sites today, according to Vox.

Hair booms are sock-like tubes stuffed with recycled hair, fur, and wool clippings. Hair naturally soaks up oil; most of the time it's sebum, an oil secreted from our sebaceous glands, but it will attract crude oil as well. When hair booms are dragged through waters slicked with oil, they sop up all of that pollution in a way that's gentle on the environment.

The same properties that make hair a great clean-up tool at spills are also what make animals vulnerable. Marine life that depends on clean fur to stay warm can die if their coats are stained with oil that's hard to wash off. Footage of an otter covered in oil was actually what inspired Phil McCroy to come up with his hair-based invention.

Check out the full story from Vox in the video below.

[h/t Vox]


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