December 14

December 14

Cute citrus incoming

Kishu mandarins are the cutest little mandarins. They are super easy to peel, revealing delicious lil’ segments. They’re completely seedless, bright in flavor, and sweet with just a bit of acid as a backdrop to round out the flavor. They’re not easy to grow or harvest, as you can imagine, which helps explain their high cost. December is early for Kishus, whose main California harvests are in January and February, so let’s call these a holiday treat. Their limited availability makes Kishus so special and we had to get our hands on some. These are grown in San Diego County by Rancho Del Sol along with over 3,000 other citrus trees. Rancho Del Sol was on the first wave of organic certification in the early 1980’s. Some 50 years later, Linda Zaiser of Rancho Del Sol is proud of how healthy and well-fed her trees are. The soil around the trees is amended with worm castings, composted chicken manure, and local organic mulch so the soil microbiology is alive and thriving. Store on the counter. Grown organically in Jamul (San Diego County) by Rancho Del Sol. 

California blueberries! We can’t help but feel so spoiled for incredible-tasting local California blueberries in DECEMBER. Mostly sweet with some tart-sweet berries thrown into the mix, these plump Santa Barbara-grown blueberries remind us of the beauty of all the little micro-climates and growing regions within California. Read more about how Sandra Newman of Forbidden Fruit Orchards started growing blues in the Nov 17 fruit notes. Store in the fridge. Grown organically in Lompoc by Forbidden Fruit Orchards.

Most green kiwifruit out there is the Hayward variety, so we love that Bryce decided to plant a 2 acre block of Mega kiwis about 4 years ago. Fall and winter seasons can be pretty slow for stone fruit growers so Blossom Bluff decided to add a vine-fruit to the mix of their third-generation tree-fruit operation, bringing color and variety to their seasonal offerings. A local grower recommended the Mega variety because it was tried and true for the area and produced larger fruit than Haywards. Also, they produce fewer doubles/fans/butterflies (when it looks like two kiwis merged into one). These have a wonderful texture and are very sweet when ripe. We love supporting the few small kiwi growers in CA. Kiwi plants are dioecious, which means the females and males live in separate flower houses, on separate plants. Getting viable male plants into the mix is crucial for fruit production and the bees on the farm do the rest to make it all happen. Store on the counter until it softens up a bit to have a slight give. Grown organically in Parlier by Blossom Bluff Orchards.

We couldn’t pass up on these oh-so-cute and even-more-delicious Wickson Crab apples. Usually, we see Wicksons in October, but Filigreen Farm is situated closer to the coast which allows for a longer apple season where varieties come on a bit later than the Sebastopol orchards. We love eating these as snacking apples. But also it’s December and they add the perfect dash of whimsy to holiday desserts (think the cutest Tarte Tatin, miniature candied apples, or poached with warm spices). Thank goodness you’ve got a whole little bag! Store in the fridge to maintain crispness. Grown organically and biodynamically in Boonville by Filigreen Farm.

Owari Satsuma mandarins! It was a small crop this year for Terra Firma but we’re happy to have gotten what we did. Satsuma mandarins are alternate-bearing trees, which means the tree will yield a large harvest in one year and a smaller one in the subsequent year. This year was the low-yield year for Terra Firma’s orchard, so these are the last Owari Satsumas from them for the year. We love how they are sweet but with high acid, making them something of a real flavor bomb. Terra Firma always does a great job growing tasty satsumas and we look forward to them all-year long. But fear not, they will have more beloved mandarin varieties in the new year and we’re pretty stoked about it already. Store on the counter. Grown organically in Winters by Terra Firma Farms. 

Winter Nelis pears may not win a beauty contest, but there’s something about these squat, lumpy, and deeply russeted pears that is just so charming. They also happen to ripen into an extremely aromatic and juicy piece of fruit! The Winter Nellis is a late season “European pear”. By this point in the year, most Euro pear crops have moved up to the Pacific Northwest, with pears coming out of bigger packing sheds in Washington. (Again, thank Filigreen Farm’s ideal Anderson Valley location for this shoulder-season availability.) These fragrant little pears are ready to eat, sweet and fine-grained. You may even want to poach them…’tis the season! Store on the counter. Grown organically and biodynamically in Boonville by Filigreen Farms.

When citrus is in season, we can’t help but think that pairing it with passion fruit is the best tropical adventure you can take your taste buds on. Scooping passion fruit onto a medley of cut citrus (perhaps a mandarin medley from this very fruitqueen box!) will give you all the POG vibes. You won’t even miss the G! Passion fruit has slowed down now but Swift in Los Osos is still getting us the goods. You can eat them now with smooth skin (juicy and tart) or keep them on the counter until they get really really wrinkly (sweeter and pulpy). Store on the counter. Grown organically in Los Osos by Swift Subtropicals. 

Fairchild tangerines are so good and so different from a satsuma that we love having them both. Incredibly juicy and super sweet, the flavor of these tangerines really make up for the fact that they aren’t the easiest to peel. We cut them into fours to eat, treating it like a mini-orange. If you missed last week’s fruit notes, these may remind you or us (or one of us) of cups of Tang after church as a kid. Whatever nostalgia may or may not bubble up, these Fairchilds are winners. Store on the counter. Grown organically in Thermal (Coachella Valley) by B&J Ranch.
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