March 21, 2024

March 21, 2024

Fresh this week

These Algerian mandarins serve as a fun contrast to the Ojai Pixies in this week’s mandarin orange taste-off. They have a thin, vermillion skin, and juicy, seeded, and classically sweet flesh. The variety has its roots in the garden of an orphanage in Algeria, where it was discovered growing as a spontaneous mutation in 1902. In fact, the word clementine (which we use synonymously with mandarin here), comes from the gardener monk who first noted this variety, Father Marie-Clement Rodier. We like the contrast this classic variety makes with a newer variety like a Pixie! Store these in the fridge. Grown organically by Garcia Organic Farm in Fallbrook.

Here’s the low-acid, sugar-forward Cara Cara orange in its full form. Lety and Juan Garcia’s location in Fallbrook allows them to let their citrus hang on the tree late into the season, producing fruit with really developed sugars. For comparison, some growers we work with in the central valley had their Cara Cara crop off the trees by the end of January. Look elsewhere for that sugar-acid balance, this is truly a Cara Cara for the Cara Cara lover. Enjoy this late-season fruit and store in the fridge. Grown organically by Garcia Organic Farm in Fallbrook.

The Cocktail grapefruit turns your expectations on their head. It’s super sweet and basically devoid of acid. Grapefruit’s signature bitterness is reduced to a faint whisper on the back end. And its dark skin and diminutive size gets it mistaken for an orange! As its name implies, it really shines in the glass. We’ve been juicing them, muddling some fresh mint, and topping it off with sparkling water (and a spirit of choice). Store in the fridge. Grown organically by Garcia Organic Farm in Fallbrook.


Encore appearances

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 1960’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.


The Meiwa kumquat is back by popular demand. While we were chatting with Lety of Garcia Organic Farm at the Santa Monica farmers market, there was a tall stack of crates filled with various kumquats sitting right in front of me. I sampled one and found myself compulsively grabbing another and another. I realized this was my first Meiwa kumquat of the season and all I could say as I reached for another was “oh my–oh my goodness–these are amazing!!” Harvesting Meiwa kumquats this late into winter means ultra-thin and delicate skin, super duper sweet with a practically creamy flesh! I don’t think kumquats are ever described as “creamy” but there’s no other way to describe these. The texture is incredible, but the flavor is also just the perfect sweet and tart balance! Nagami kumquats have a nice bite, but these Meiwas just melt in your mouth. It’s like eating candy! Excuse the occasional softy; while we laboriously sort them by hand, their thin skins are easily punctured. Store in the fridge and don’t delay, these are ripe and perishable! Grown organically by Garcia Organic Farm in Fallbrook.


We introduced cherimoyas at the beginning of February when they were just starting up at Good Land Organics. These Booth cherimoyas are farmer Jay Ruskey’s second 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.

Good Land Organics has had a bumper crop of Ice Cream Bean this season! 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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