Ojai Pixie Tangerines 2014

Shopping in the produce department can be depressing in the winter when you live in a northern climate. Local fresh produce is long gone. Which is why I am so thankful that I have citrus season to help me deal with the winter time blues. As we head deeper into spring, it means that citrus season is coming to a close. While that is disappointing, the good news is that one of the best tasting pieces of citrus is one that you will find right at the end of the year. For the last several years, I have enjoyed the Pixie tangerine as the last piece of citrus I will have until the cold weather returns. Talk about going out with a bang, these are so rich in flavor, and sweet on the tongue. If you have not tried them before you really need to seek them out.

The 2014 crop wasn’t the largest. There was some damage due to December freezes and California experienced a drought in January. While the size is mammoth this year, the availability and prices are not as good (I paid $2.69/pound without no chance of any sale prices this year). That is why it’s even more important for me to share with you where you can find these tangerines. Lucky for us the Ojai Pixie Growers Association posted the stores where you can find their Pixies this year on their website. For your convenience I have re-posted the list below. I buy mine at Whole Foods Market in Ann Arbor, Michigan. For the first couple weeks they were only getting them on the weekends, however now the supply has improved. Don’t hesitate to pick them up in bunches if you see them as there are no promises you will be able to get more.

Here are some grocery outlets that carry Ojai Pixie Tangerines:

Southern California

Ojai:
Rainbow Bridge, 211 E. Matilija, 805-646-4017 www.rainbowbridgeojai.com
Starr Market, 131 West Ojai Avenue, 805-646-4082
Westridge Market, 802 E. Ojai Ave. 805-646-2762.

Santa Barbara:
Lane Farms, 5091 Hollister Avenue, 805-964-3773
Lazy Acres, 302 Meigs Road, 805-564-4410 www.lazyacres.com
Tri-County Produce, 335 South Milpas Street, 805-965-4558 www.tri-countyproduce.com

New Frontiers Natural Marketplace
1531 Froom Ranch Way San Luis Obispo, CA 93405
1984 Old Mission Dr Solvang, CA 93463

Malibu
Vintage Grocer

San Gabriel
Howie’s Ranch Market

Orange
Pacific Ranch Market

Northgate Markets

http://www.northgatemarkets.com/

Gelson’s Markets – 18 Southern California stores

http://www.gelsons.com/

Bristol Farms – 13 Southern California stores

http://www.bristolfarms.com/

Northern California

Berkeley:
Monterey Market, 1550 Hopkins Street, 510-526-6042 www.montereymarket.com
The Berkeley Bowl, 510-843-6929 www.berkeleybowl.com

Alameda
Dan’s Fresh Produce, 2300 Central Avenue www.dansfreshproduce.com

Draeger’s Gourmet Food & Wine www.draegers.com
Los Altos, 342 First St., 650-948-1563
Menlo Park, 1010 University Dr., 650-324-7700
San Mateo, 222 4th Ave., 650-685-3700

Lunardi’s www.lunardis.com
Los Gatos, 720 Blossom Hill Road, 408-358-1731
San Jose, 4650 Meridian Ave., 408-265-9101
San Jose, 4055 Evergreen Village Square, Suite 140; 408-528-6940
San Bruno, 100 Skycrest Center, 650-952-2851
Belmont, 1085 Alameda de las Pulgas, 650-591-5768
Walnut Creek, 1600 Palos Verdes Mall, 925-939-6477
Burlingame, 1825 El Camino Real, 650-697-5306

Other Bay Area:
Sigona’s: Redwood City and Palo Alto
Rockridge Market Hall: Rockridge
The Wharf Marketplace

Outside California

Whole Foods Market stores across the country (Check store for availability)

Central Market www.centralmarket.com
Austin, TX – Central, 4001 North Lamar
Austin, TX – Westgate, 4477 South Lamar
Dallas, TX – 5750 E. Lovers Lane
Fort Worth, TX – 4651 West Freeway
Houston, TX – 3815 Westheimer
Plano, TX – 320 Coit Road
San Antonio, TX – 4821 Broadway
Eastern US

Wegman’s Markets – 80 stores in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland
www.wegmans.com

The Orchard, 1367 Coney Island Boulevard, Brooklyn, NY 718-377-0800, www.orchardfruit.com

Mail Order Sources

Directly from the farmer, at Friend’s Ranches:
www.friendsranches.com, 805-646-2871

Farm-direct certified organic Ojai Pixies from Churchill Orchard:
www.tangerineman.com, 805-646-4212

From Melissa’s World Variety, at
www.melissas.com, 800-468-7111

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2014 Sumo Citrus Crop

When it comes to produce you can call me a super fan. I readily await with much anticipation the relese of my favorite varieties throughout the year. When it comes to citrus season, nothing beats the excitement of bitting into my first SUMO Mandarin of the year. SUMO bursts forth with a sweet, rich flavor reminiscent to orange ice cream pops. A little background on the SUMO, it is a mandarin that is the size of a navel orange, but peels just as easy as those popular boxes of mandarin with the smiling faces on them. To learn more about them, check out my post – What are SUMO Mandarins

This will be my third season of experiencing this orange wonder. The 2014 season has not got off to a great start. Cold weather in California with a period of freezing temperatures in December has delayed the start of the season to late February 2014. If that wasn’t enough, California has been experiencing a terrible drought. Both of these weather factors has harmed the overall production of SUMO Citrus for this season. Originally they expected production to be up from last year, it appears now that about the same as last year is the best we can hope for.

SUMO Mandarins are still relatively new. The acreage devoted to them makes up less than 3% of the total California manadrin crop. New trees are fruiting each year. The harvest takes place sometime in late January to early February. Then in April the trees blossom and the process begins again.

Below you will find a list of stores that are expected to have SUMO Citrus this season. I got the list from the official SUMO Citrus website, which you should just check out to learn more about my favorite mandarin. Check with each store individually for availability. They won’t be shipping until after Valentine’s Day.

SUMO Citrus Recipes
Sumo Citrus Fudge
SUMO Citrus Fudge
SUMO Citrus Sugar Cookies

Store Listing for 2014

Southern California
Koreatown Plaza Market
Bristol Farms
Whole Foods Market
Marukai
Nijiya Market
Mitsuwa Marketplace
Santa Monica Farmers Market (every Wednesday)
Assi Super
Grow – The Produce Shop
Gelson’s Markets

Northern California
Lunardi’s Markets
Old McDonald’s Farmers Market
Zanotto’s Family Markets
Nijiya Market
Safeway (select Northern California locations)
Andronico’s Community Markets
Nugget Markets
Berkeley Bowl Marketplace
Capitola Village Market
Monterey Market
Whole Foods Market
Draeger’s Market

Outside California
Nijiya Market
Dan’s Fresh Supermarket
Dorothy Lane Market
Safeway (Select Locations)
Whole Foods Market
Brennan’s Country Farm Market
Brookshire’s
Lunds/Byerly’s
Eataly NYC
Jungle Jim’s International Market
Earthfare Market
Super 1 Foods Idaho, Montana
Fortinos
Fresh Direct
Baldor Specialty Foods
Kroger (Select Locations)
Metropolitan Market
H Mart
Reasors
Town & Country Markets
Gourmet Garage
West Side Markets
Rouses
The Fresh Market
Wegman’s Food Markets
Foodland & Sack & Save Supermarkets Hawaii
Roth’s Fresh Market

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I have been really excited for the SUMO Mandarin season to arrive. I had this mandarin for the first time last year and was really impressed with it’s flavor and juiciness. The SUMO was developed over a 30 year period in Japan, by a man who wanted the ease of peeling of  a Satsuma mandarin and the size and juiciness of a California Navel orange. That is exactly what we have now. This season I wanted to try and do something with one of them, even thought it’s hard not to just want to gobble them all up as is. I love citrus flavors in cookies. Why not make a sugar cookie with the flavors of this awesome mandarin?

Some people might think sugar cookies are only for Christmas. We need not refrain from them the rest of the year, especially when you have some flavors out there that would work perfectly in one. These cookies use the SUMO in two ways. The zest goes into the cookie batter to provide a nice essence of orange flavor. The juice is mixed with powdered sugar to make a simple, yet bold tasting icing.

I used a Clementine in this shot showing I used it’s zest for top of the icing.

The recipe below uses just 1 SUMO. The recipe I use is inspired by a sugar cookie recipe from Paula Dean. I have made several changes.

SUMO Mandarin Sugar Cookie Recipe
Cookie
 

Ingredients
For the cookie dough
  • 1½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter (slightly softened)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • zest of 1 SUMO Mandarin
For the glaze
  • Juice of 1 SUMO Mandarin
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • Additional zest for garnish (optional)

Instructions
Making the cookies
  1. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and powdered sugar.
  2. Mix in the egg, vanilla, and zest. Thoroughly combine.
  3. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cream of tartar.
  4. Add the dry ingredients in batches to the creamed mixture until you have combined everything well.
  5. Cover and refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes. This is to harden up the fat so the cookies don’t spread too much.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  7. Cut the dough in half.
  8. Roll one half out onto a floured surface to around a quarter-inch thickness. Cut the cookies out with a round cookie cutter or what cookie cutter you like.
  9. Transfer cookies to a parchment or silicone lined half sheet pan. Do no more than 8 cookies on a pan.
  10. Bake for 10-14 minutes (depends on size of your cookie cutter) or until slightly browned.
  11. Allow to cool on a wire rack before glazing.
To glaze the cookies
  1. Mix together the juice of 1 SUMO Mandarin with powdered sugar. Mix until you form a glaze that is spreadable without being too thick or too runny.
  2. Spread onto cookies as soon as they are cool enough to handle.
  3. Garnish with more zest if you like (like I did in my picture)

 

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Ok I admit I am big produce nerd. Which is good because that’s my day job. It’s also good because I stay on the cusp of what is cool and new in the produce world and pass it along to you – my audience.

Last year one of the most amazing (and largest) mandarins hit the market place – the Sumo. It’s sumo wrestler looking top combined with it’s orange cream like flavor, has gotten me excited about sinking my teeth into one of these again this year. You aren’t going to like those boring Clementines that are flying off the shelve everywhere after you take your first bite of Sumo!

I just heard from the growers themselves that they hope to begin shipping the first week of February and that we should be enjoying them the next time the government takes a Monday off (President’s Day).

For more info on availability check out the official Sumo site. Also make sure to read my post from last year when I first became acquainted with this awesome piece of citrus.

If you want to learn more, take a moment to play this YouTube video on the history of the Sumo.

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Sumo Citrus Mandarins

I absolutely love fruit that has a story behind it. What better a fruit story than a three decade long labor of love! That is what we have with Sumo mandarins also labeled as SUMO Citrus. They discovered a tangerine-orange hybrid that had major potential. Trouble was that it was not easy to grow. So it took 3 decades to perfect it, but perfect it they did. They had to use different growing techniques and styles of pruning, but the dream of an orange that would peel as easy as a Satsuma but be big and juicy like a California Navel oranges was realized.

The name “Sumo” was an American invention. It is called a Dekopon in Japan, but the name was changed when it came to California. The large size of the fruit and the shape of the top of the fruit which resembles the hair style of a sumo wrestler seem to be the inspiration for the name. Easier to market something to the American public as a Sumo rather than a Dekopon.

What Price are Sumo Mandarins (Oranges)?

Sumo madarins was first released nationwide in 2012. As with a new fruit it takes times for the trees to grow and produce sizable crops. Availability is limited and the price is higher than most mandarins you will find this winter. At Whole Foods in 2012, I paid $2.49 a pound. In 2013 it was $2.99 a pound. At the Produce Station in Ann Arbor, they are selling for $3.99 a pound. But if you think those prices are higher than be thankful you are buying them in a Tokyo gift shop where they can go for eight dollars….a piece!!

Where Are Sumo Mandarins (Oranges) Grown?

Sumo madarins are grown in Central California by several different growers. You can read more about these growers at the official Sumo Citrus website. It’s nice to be able to put a face to the growers. Sumos are packed and shipped by Suntreat Packing & Shipping Co.

My Experience with this Mandarins (Rating Scale 1-10)

Seeded or Seedless: Seedless
Sweetness: 8
Acidity : 4
Flavor: 9
Juiciness: 8

When I first unpeeled the fruit, which the peel came off easily – you can do it in one piece if your good. When I saw beneath looked disappointing at first glance. I thought it looked like it was going to be dry and stringy. Again shows that looks aren’t everything. It was a juicy, flavor explosion in my mouth. The flavor is unique. My wife feel like it had kind of a orange sherbet or orange & cream kind of flavor, but with a bit more tartness than you find in those treats. The membranes covering the segments are exceptionally thin, which I think helps the flavor to stand out even more. This is a must have citrus of the season!

FAQ: Can You Buy Sumo Mandarins Online?

Yes. You can purchase them online from Harry & David.

Where Else to Buy Sumo Mandarins

Here is a list of some stores where you can buy Sumos:

Southern California
Greenland Supermarket
Whole Foods Market
Whole Foods
Grow – The Produce Shop
Santa Monica Farmers Market (every Wednesday)
Mitsuwa Marketplace
Nijiya Market
Koreatown Plaza Market
Gelson’s Markets
Bristol Farms
Marukai
Assi Super

Northern California
Andronico’s Community Markets
Nugget Markets
Whole Foods Market
Berkeley Bowl Marketplace
Capitola Village Market
Zanotto’s Family Markets
Lunardi’s Markets
Monterey Market
Nijiya Market
Old McDonald’s Farmers Market
Safeway (select Northern California locations)
Draeger’s Market

Outside California
The Produce Station (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
Metropolitan Market
West Side Markets
Reasors
Fresh Direct
H Mart
Whole Foods Market
Town & Country Markets
Nijiya Market
Brennan’s Country Farm Market
Central Market
Wegman’s Food Markets
Jungle Jim’s International Market
Rouses
Baldor Specialty Foods
Fortinos
Eataly NYC
Lunds/Byerly’s
Gourmet Garage
Roth’s Fresh Market
Dan’s Fresh Supermarket

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One of my favorite sources for citrus is Plum Market in Ann Arbor, MI. They are the second best thing to go directly to California and buying mandarins directly from a farmer’s market (which I did in 2011). So when my food budget started over again for the month of January, I headed over to Plum to see what they had in the way of citrus. I was not disappointed when I discovered another mandarin I have had not before – the Kishu. This was the smallest mandarin I have ever seen, even smaller than the Pixie. It’s not bigger than a walnut. I bought a handful to take home and try.

The Kishu belongs to a family of small mandarins that have their origins in China. The Kishua is available in the U.S. from December through February.

My Experience with this Mandarins (Rating Scale 1-10)
Seeded or Seedless: Seedless
Sweetness: 7
Acidity : 7
Flavor: 7
Juiciness: 7

It’s a nice mandarin. It’s equally balance between sweet and acidic. The flavor is a set up from the popular Clementine mandarin. It is extremely easy to peel. The segments are really small. You probably could pop the entire thing in your mouth at one time (I resisted the urge to do so). Not the best mandarin I ever had, but a good one none the less. They make a good choice for kid’s lunches and salads. Too small for juice and zesting (would be a lot of work).

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As a citrus lover living in a Midwestern state, I keep my eyes peeled to what’s going on to the west and south of me. Yesterday, I took a look at the California citrus crop for this year from the perspective of one farm. Tonight I am going to look at the Florida crop from the perspective of the Orange Shop, who ships more varieties of citrus than any grower/shipped in the country. They are located in Citra, Florida, which is just south of Gainesville. Here are some highlights of the information I received from them.

1. The Florida crop is earlier than last year. The fruit is sweeter and larger than last year. All positives in my book!

2. They started shipping Florida grown Clementines in the middle part of November.

3. After the Clementines comes the Page tangerines, which had a very good crop this year.

4. One of the most exciting parts of the Florida citrus season lately has been the release of the Honeybells. They are a cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine. They have a honey like taste inside of a bell shaped package. They are available for a short time in January. The Orange Shop is taking orders for those right now.

Besides what I mentioned here, I have seen some Florida grown navals and blood oranges appearing in my local grocery stores from other sources.

Looks like all the news is good from Florida so far this year. But there is always a danger of a frost causing damage to their crops. I decided to include a video below of what some farmers do to help save their crops when a frost is coming.

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I loved citrus – oranges, mandarins, lemons, limes. All have their place in my kitchen. They represent a group of the most versatile fruit out there. The only downside for me is that they prefer a bit warmer climate than the one I experience in the Great Lakes state. So I have to turn to other areas of the country to get my citrus fix. Florida and California are both top citrus producing states. My eyes turn to these states during the winter months. So how does the crop look this year? I will be answering that question for both of these places, starting today with California.

Last month I wrote a post on when orange/mandarin season begins and end. In it I mentioned that I have heard reports that the Naval orange crop will be smaller this year than last, but still a large crop when compared to other seasons in the last 20-25 years. Now I have a little more information for you. I e-mailed a grower out in California to ask about how their crop was doing this year. Their citrus is grown at Rising C Ranches (located in Orange Cove, California not far from Fresno and the Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks). They market their produce under the name “Ripe to You“. I have found a lot of their citrus at Plum Market in Ann Arbor, Michigan. They are dedicated to picking fruit at it’s peak. They wait for the right coloring on the citrus and for the brix levels to be high enough. I can say that everything I have bought with their sticker on it has been of the best quality.

Here is some information they gave to me:
1) They had a mild spring, which led to their season giving off to a late start. They estimate they are about 3 weeks later than some previous years.

2) In November, they began harvesting Owari Satsuma mandarins, Budda’s Hand citron, Etrog citron, variegated pink lemons, and some Meyer lemons.

3) Their heirloom navals are expected right around the end of December, along with the Moro blood oranges. Both seem to be smaller in size than usual this year. Seville sour oranges are also expected at this same time.

4) In mid to late January they are expected to harvest their limequats, Page mandarins, Cara Cara navels, and Minneolas.
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Obviously depending on the area, citrus varieties will ripen at different times. This is just meant to be a glimpse of how this citrus season may go, based on one particular farm (but it’s a farm I love to support!)

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One of the sad things about this time of year is that the peak of the farmer’s market season here in Michigan has come and gone. There are no more peaches, no more berries, and cherries are long gone. But even thought I don’t have those fruits to enjoy, this is the time of year where I do more of my fruit shopping indoors. One of the main reasons is that we are at the start of orange season. A good orange ranks at the top of my favorite fruits. In this post I will talk all about the orange season, when it begins, when it ends, and everything in between. In this discussion I will also include the cousin of the orange, the mandarin, who has been getting more exposure in recent years, mainly because of the increased popularity of the Clementine.

The Start of the Orange Season
Sometime in November is when you will begin to see American grown oranges hitting the marketplace. Starting with the classic Naval oranges which usually last in the stores all the way until spring time. Other orange varieties such as blood oranges and Cara Cara usually start popping up sometime around Christmas. Both Cara Cara and Blood oranges don’t get good until at least mid to late January, but waiting until March will assure the best flavor. Patience is the key to enjoying these varieties. Valencia oranges that are great for juice are available later in the season, closer to the end of winter.

When Does California Orange Season Begin? When Does Florida Orange Season Begin?
Both the California and Florida orange seasons being at the same time in November with Naval oranges. The varieties that each state offers is quite different. Most people will end up finding more California oranges in their stores than Florida. But that doesn’t mean Florida has nothing to offer. The Honeybell Tangelos – a cross between Duncan Grapefruit and Dancy Tangerines – are becoming a sought after Florida grown variety. Florida’s Temple Oranges also hit the market early on in the season. They have a good flavor but you must deal with seeds which is a turn off to a lot of people.

When are Clementines in Season?
I promised to talk about mandarins in this post, so I had to bring up the popular Clementine. You are able to find them in stores longer and longer as the years go by, but most of those will probably have been grown in Spain or somewhere else in Europe. The U.S. grown Clementine season is actually pretty short, typically running from right around Thanksgiving until just after New Year’s. Other mandarin varieties like the Murcott (which are often of poor quality) are often sold as Clementines when they are really not.

Nearly all the Clementines grown in the United States are grown in California. I found one source in Florida (the Orange Shop) that has Florida grown Clementines. To the best of their knowledge they are the only source for Florida Clementines.

What About Other Mandarins?
The popularity of the Clementine has lead to a push towards more mandarin varieties to be available on the market. Now you can find different varieties from late fall to early spring. It starts with the Clementines and the Satsumas, then into the New Year you have varieties like Gold Nugget and Page, towards the end of winter there are Shasta Gold, Yosemite Gold, and Tahoe Gold. Finally at the very end of the season are the small, but delicious Pixies.

With the development of new varieties there are plenty of oranges and mandarins to be had that will keep me happy until my farmer’s markets start producing new crops again. Please feel free to share your citrus experiences in the comment section below.

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If I saw a picture of a produce section and somebody asked me what time of year it was, if the photo was winter I would be looking for one thing in particular, stacks of boxes of clementines. Many of those stacks, would be baring the name “Cuties”. Right now we are in the dog days of summer and the last thing I would expect to see at the grocery store is the Cuties logo. Yet I did last night. Not in the produce section, but by the juices. There are now several varieties of Cuties brand juices and smoothies. I wanted to start with the juice that most represents what I think of when I think of Cuties, that would be there 100% tangerine juice.

Here are some interesting facts about this juice. It’s 100% juice, not from concentrate. It comes in a 48 ounce bottle or smaller single serving sizes. The juice itself is a combination of Clementines and Mandarins. One of the unique things about this juice is that it tells you how much fruit was used to make it, in this case over 35 Cuties. The juice has no preservatives and is gluten free.

The package is very appealing. It gets you excited to try the product. And when I did try it I was not disappointed. Best tangerine juice I have ever had! Perfect balance of sweet and tart. It is exactly what I expected it would be like to drink a glass of Cuties. I will definitely be reviewing the other flavors.

Where to Buy
I purchased mine at a Meijer store in Ann Arbor, Michigan. If you have found this juice, please leave a comment below telling us what store in what city as well as your own thoughts.

Here is where others have found it:
Save Mart, Reno NV
Raley’s in Golden Valley (Reno), NV.
St. Louis, MO at Sams Club
Chucks in Vancouver WA

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