March 14, 2024

March 14, 2024

Spring is springing!

Fresh this week

The start of Ojai Pixie season is a clear sign of spring. For the uninitiated, the Pixie is a late-season mandarin variety that’s delicious, sweet, easy to peel, and at its best when grown in the Ojai Valley. When introduced in the 1960’s, the Pixie variety found no favor commercially. It takes longer than usual to come into production, it’s alternate-bearing (meaning it produces heavy yields one year and light yields the next), and by 60’s standards it was late for ‘tangerine season’ (which meant Christmas). But UC Riverside trials showed that, when grown in the Ojai Valley, Pixies really shine. Over the next two decades, doctrinaire assumptions of ‘tangerine season’ began to expand and the late-ripening Pixie became a way to extend the citrus grower’s season. A couple of small growers began planting and marketing the Ojai Pixie and the fruit fans of the world caught on. There’s now an association of small growers in Ojai organized to promote this delicious mandarin! We visited farmer Chris’ five acre sloped orchard in Ojai, lush with Hass avocados, Pixies, and Kishus. The earth was soft under our feet, proof of Chris’ intensive mulching system. A small flock of sheep grazed on the far side of the orchard, diligently weeding and fertilizing. The trees are happy, fertile, and well-fed from the nutrient-dense soil. Lucky for us, it’s looking like a really good crop of Ojai Pixie mandarins this year! Store on the counter. Grown organically by Rainbow Ranch Ojai in Ojai.


Blueberries are a lot like tomatoes. We’ve been trained to expect them to be available 365 days a year. We likely got to know them as mealy, watery, and bland. And both, when grown for flavor and eaten in season, have next to nothing in common with their grocery store cousins (apart from their physical resemblance.) A Snowchaser blueberry, like a vine-ripened late summer tomato, has the power to transform those expectations of mediocrity. Snowchasers are firm, yielding with a pop and a concentrated burst of flavor and sugar. Our buds at Coastal Moon Farm are of the same mind as we are: fruit should be grown for flavor, in harmony with nature, and eating well is living well. Snowchasers are our favorite variety and the first to come on at Coastal Moon. Spring is here! And the local berry season is just kicking off. Store in the fridge. Grown organically by Coastal Moon Farm in Watsonville.


This far intro citrus season is when we enjoy Rio Red Grapefruit the most. Many orange, mandarin, and pomelo varieties have become sweet sweet sweet due to their hang time on the tree. Not a bad thing! But the juicy tartness of a Rio Red Grapefruit becomes especially welcome. The Rio Reds have sweetened up as well, which helps cut the acid and bitterness so you can enjoy the full complexity of this variety’s flavor. We love tasting the continued development of red grapefruit through late spring. Store on the counter. Grown organically by Spreadwing Farm in Rumsey.

California’s Navel orange season is winding down and Valencia oranges are making their way onto the scene. The Washington Navel orange has become so widely planted and sold that it can be easily overlooked. We think it’s really special when a small farm like Spreadwing grows a common commodity like a Navel orange, but does it REALLY well. Cathy and Michael nurture the 50 trees (over 40 years old!) in their diversified orchard with such care. The result? The most delicious orange that makes you remember that growing practices and terroir matter. We’re nearing the end of Spreadwing’s citrus season and they are transitioning their focus to stone fruit. We’re grateful Cathy and Michael shared their Washington Navel crop with us this season, even being a low-yield year for them. Store on the counter. Grown organically by Spreadwing Farm in Rumsey.


Encore appearances

Jill, owner-operator of Four Sisters Farm, and her crew tend to the five acres of Hayward kiwis that her father and grandfather planted in 1978. On their hillside farm near Monterey Bay, they’ve planted kiwis at the top, flowers in the middle, and greens down below. Jill says her parents started farming organically before it was ever “sexy and marketable.” After years of cultivation and compost amendments their farm is now proudly showing off almost three feet of fertile topsoil, compared to the three inches they started with. Monterey County may be the land of strawberries and artichokes, but its climate is also perfect for these kiwi vines, nurtured by the gentler summer just a few miles from the ocean. Jill harvests her kiwis later in the season and flavor-wise, these are the BEST kiwis we’ve had. She’s got a good crop this year and we love supporting women farmers who are growing big commodities like kiwis on a smaller scale. Store these on the counter until desired softness, or at fridge temps to extend shelf life before ripening. Grown sustainably by Four Sisters Farm in Aromas.


We introduced cherimoyas at the beginning of February when they were just starting up at Good Land Organics. These Dr. White cherimoyas are farmer Jay Ruskey’s most-common variety. There’s so much to appreciate about cherimoyas but perhaps the most incredible thing is the labor-intensive work of hand-pollinating each flower in order for it to bear a proper fruit-set. Visiting farmer Jay last week, he told us that cherimoyas bloom in July or August. But the window of opportunity is short. Cherimoyas are unusual in that the flowers exhibit protogyny. This means the flower starts its bloom with female parts and a few hours later transforms to male parts. This means Jay & the crew need to properly time the bloom to collect the pollen (male) and then apply on the receptive stigma (female) for successful pollination. This transformation fluctuates based on temperature and humidity, too. Wow! We’re so lucky to be eating this magical fruit. Cherimoya season is nearly coming to an end so we’re holding onto every bite of these swirling flavors of banana, papaya, and pineapple. Keep the cherimoya on your counter until it yields to gentle pressure (like an avocado) and it’ll be ready to eat. We like to cut it in half and use a spoon to scoop the flesh out, while dodging the black seeds. Store these on the counter. Grown organically by Good Land Organics in Goleta.


The Ice Cream Bean crop is really exploding right now! With all this rain, they’re big and bountiful (and on the farm some are literally exploding, swollen and burst from the heavy rains). Though Ice Cream bean is the ~FuN nAmE~, Jay and Kristen Ruskey refer to the fruit as “Inga” which is short for its scientific name, Inga edulis. Inga is commonly planted alongside coffee to provide shade, wind protection, and help fix nitrogen in the soil. It’s extremely fast-growing and even though it’s a legume, it grows in the habit of a tree! Yes, that means the main appeal (the sweet and custardy white part) wraps around a big black “bean” that is also edible when cooked. Check out the reel we made showing you how to open them up here. Store in the fridge. Grown organically by Good Land Organics in Goleta.

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