There are a lot of varieties of mandarins/tangerines that have showed up in stores over the last decade - Clementines, Murcott, Page, Gold Nugget, Tahoe Gold, Satsuma, etc. We have also seen a lot of commercial trademarked names given to these fruit - Halos, Cuties, Smiles, Dimples, etc. Yet one variety stands out from them, as being something truly special, worth every penny and that is the Pixie Tangerines from Ojai, California. Talk about saving the best for last, the Ojai Pixie is the last good piece of citrus I will eat this year.
What Makes Pixies So Special
What I found as the most important thing is the people that grow them. Ojai Pixies growers belong to the Ojai Pixies Growers Association, a group of 52 growers from family farms of all different sizes. I love the fact that when you a buy a Pixie you are supporting small farms not big huge operations. I had the privilege to attend the Ojai Pixie Growers Association monthly meeting. Every 3rd Thursday of the month they gather at a cafe in Ojai at 7am to discuss Pixie related news. I got to see the heart and passion of these people. They love growing their Pixies and they are extremely proud of their product. They also were friendly and welcoming to me, an outsider to the group, plus I got lead on a prviate tour of one of their groves. It was definitely one of the highlights of my trip to California.
Now let's talk climate. The micro climate experienced in Ojai, makes for especially delicious Pixies. Grown elsewhere they don't live up to the same standard - it wasn't until they were grown there that people realized their potential. Just as Vidilia onions are best in Vidialia, Georgia or certain wines are better from certain regions. The Ojai Valley runs from east to west, giving the Pixies plenty of sunshine. Ojai has a Mediterranean climate, which means hot, dry summers and mild winters . If you want to learn more about what makes Ojai such a grower's paradise, check out this article in edible ojai & ventura county.
The Pixie is also unique in that it is a late season tangerine, available long after Clementines are out of season. If you think you bought Clementines at the store just this week, either your store doesn't care to change the signs or is doing so on purpose to drive sales or maybe a little of both. Pixies spend plenty of time on the tree to built up plenty of sugars. It's not just that they are sweet, they are flavorful with a rich tangerine taste.
Pixies are 100% seedless. They naturally do not produce seeds. Many other mandarins do produce seeds but they are covered with cloth when they blossom, to keep the bees out, so they don't cross pollinate and develop seeds. If you ever bought a box of those name brand mandarins, you may on occasion still find a seed.
My Kids Love Them
As we often do in my household, I love to bring home different varieties of fruit and have the kids taste them to pick out their favorite. I put the Ojai Pixie up against Gold Nugget, Murcott, and Tahoe Gold mandarins. The Pixie was the clear winner.
Watch for the Ojai Pixie Logo
As I mentioned above, retailers aren't always good at changing their signs. You need to look for the Ojai Pixie logo to know you are getting the genuine deal. Sometimes you won't find them even labeled. In the picture below I found Pixies mixed in with other various mandarins/tangerines in a grocery store outside of Los Angeles.
Ojai Pixies are in season from March and into the early summer. The end dating depends a lot on the crop each year, but also how long retailers are willing to stock citrus. As we get into May, stone fruit out of California begin to show up - thus floor space for citrus is cut. Talk to your store, encourage them to carry Pixies as long as they are available.
I live in Michigan. Where can I purchase these locally?
Where abouts in Michigan are you at?
I have seen them in past years at Whole Foods, Produce Station (Ann Arbor), Plum Market, Holiday Market (Canton). No Kroger or Meijer unfortunately.