Learn all about this special variety of citrus that come from a particular part of California and grown by a group of dedicated farmers.
What are Ojai Pixie Mandarins? They are a small to medium sized naturally seedless mandarin or tangerine that is grown in the mountains around Ojai, California. They are known for their sweet, delicious flavor, usually ripening in March.
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 and every year!
🍊 Why Try a Pixie Tangerine?
Here are 7 reasons to try a Ojai Pixie Tangerine this year:
- They are super sweet
- They are flavorful
- They are juicy
- They are naturally seedless
- You are supporting small family farms
- They are the best citrus to buy in the spring
- They are great for kids
👩🌾 Who Grows Them?
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.
Years ago, I had the privilege to attend the Ojai Pixie Growers Association monthly meeting. 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 private tour of one of their groves. It was definitely one of the highlights of my trip to California that year.
⛰️ Why It Matters Where They Grow?
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 Vidalia onions are best in Vidalia, 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 .
🌼 When are They in Season?
You can find Pixie Tangerines in stores from March through the end of April, often into May in some stores.
The Pixie is also unique in that it is a late season tangerine, available long after Clementines are out of season. 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.
Ojai Pixies are in season from March and into the late spring. The ending date 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.
Did you know the trees have fruit and blossoms on them at the same time? I am use to apple trees that bloom in May and have fruit in August, September, or October. So when I had my tour not only did I get to see the Pixies, I got to really smell the Pixies!
❔ Are They Seedless?
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.
Read my blog post on why do you sometimes find seeds in Cuties or Halos when they are suppose to be seedless?
👨👩👧👦 Great for Kids
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.
Besides flavor, the smaller size of the fruit is perfect for smaller appetites. Although sometimes the fruit can be larger than normal. One year when the winter weather was really warm in California the fruit ended up growing to an extra large size instead. Most years they are going to be small.
👀 How to Find Them
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.
Some stores that I have personally seen Ojai Pixie Tangerines in before include:
- Central Market
- Heinen's Grocery Stores
- The Fresh Market
- Whole Foods Market
🙋 Why Aren't They More Popular?
I was chatting with Emily from Friends Ranches about the challenges of growing these fruits as she was giving me a tour of the citrus grove in Ojai, CA. It didn't take long to notice that some trees were absolutely loaded while others were practically empty.
What's the deal with that? See the Pixie is alternate year bearing. It bears heavy one year and then light the next. Even on individual trees you can find some parts loaded and others more sparse. Which is why it didn't catch on as commercial variety until the growers in Ojai came together.