You will remember the first time you eat a naked section of an orange or grapefruit: immeasurably tiny pockets of pure juice, without the bitter white pith getting in the way of your taste sensation.
The sight of it is striking. The color is bright and vibrant, and the construction of the fruit (and reason for its juiciness) becomes apparent—plump little drops of contained juice huddle together in tight clusters, making it bumpy and delicate to the touch.
But the taste is what will forever stay fresh in your memory: Each little juice bubble pops on your tongue, divinely sweet, with all of the tang and none of the bite.
Pithless citrus (now there’s a tongue-twister) is a cool thing to have up your chef coat sleeve. It’s a great treat and makes for beautiful presentation and a crisp flavor in a fruit or grain salad.
But it does reduce the nutrient level of the fruit overall, as the pith contains the same amount of vitamin C as the flesh, as well as pectin (a dietary fiber) and bioflavonoids (an antioxidant). So while you shouldn’t routinely ditch your pith, it doesn’t hurt to enjoy the pure juicy goodness of some naked citrus every now and again.
I learned how to cut citrus without the pith from my dad, who learned from old Mexican ladies in the Rio Grande Valley. It takes a bit of knife finesse, but you’ll get it down with a little practice. Make sure you’ve got a good few pieces of fruit to work with!
- Slice the top and bottom off of the fruit, cutting away as little flesh as possible.
- Place the fruit flat on your cutting board and hold it steady with your free hand. Position your blade between the peel and the fruit, and gently saw your knife along the side of the fruit from top to bottom, following its natural curvature as you go.
- Rotate the fruit and continue cutting away the rind in this way. Work on getting deep enough to expose the bright flesh while leaving very little still attached to the skin.
- Carefully cut away any leftover chunks of rind or pith.
- Once your fruit is peeled, slice into it on either side of each segment divider, cutting as close to the membrane as possible. As you cut the second side of each segment of fruit, it should easily come away onto your knife or cutting board.