After the stonefruits lose their leaves and are finished with the fall fruits, we move into our citrus crops. Chilly temperatures and wet weather help these breathtaking fruits to produce sweet flavors that dress up meals with a wealth of flavor and fight off winter’s wrath. Citrus is loaded with vitamin C so they’re perfect to prevent or overcome illness during flu season. Like little orbs of packaged sunshine, these bright gems seem to stand in defiance to Jack Frost. An added benefit, our farm sits in a little microclimate that is protected on 3 sides by Table Mountain. (Our exposure faces West so every night as the sun sets, we have a pocket of about 400-500 acres that retains heat.) The mountain’s vertical face also absorbs massive amounts of heat since it’s all solid basalt. Like a big heating block, the thermal energy is radiated back into the orchard throughout the night, warding off winter’s chill. This doesn’t make us impervious to weather conditions, but it gives us a leg up in an occupation that’s already extremely challenging and sometimes humbling when one is forced to realize how little control we actually have over nature. Fortunately, we are typically one of the last farms in our county to have issues with freezes.
For a nice citrus marmalade recipe and tips on citrus storage, preserving methods like canning, dehydrating, and candied citrus check out this University of California Citrus Packet
Citrus is available for shipping when it’s in season and provided that we have ample volume to ship. Please look in our webstore to see if we have citrus fruits available.
Satsuma Mandarins (Origin and History) In a typical year these fruits usually become available the week of Thanksgiving and last until Christmas. They’re easy to peel, seedless, juicy, and very sweet. They don’t keep as well as other citrus though, so don’t keep them in the fridge. Put them somewhere cold and dry; the garage can be an ideal place provided there is no an issue with freezing. Usually, people eat them so fast that storage doesn’t become much of an issue. But if you’ve had your fill, or the mandarins are starting to dry out, you can juice them and freeze the juice for long-term storage.
Navel Oranges (Origin and History) Navel oranges are the premier eating orange. They’re named for an indentation on the bottom of the fruit that looks like a belly button which is why they’re called Navels. Early Navel Oranges usually start ripening around January but the bulk of the fruit doesn’t come on until later in the month. Most farms come in with a crew and flash pick their entire orchards at once. Instead we leave the fruit on the trees and pick it as needed. The fruit continues to get sweeter on the tree all season long, with occasional fruit that even makes it until the middle of summer. Week after week, the oranges get better until we sell out.
Kept dry and cool, oranges can keep for weeks. Most citrus will mold extremely quickly under the presence of moisture. Navels are not known for juicing because they have a high content of limonin which develops a bitter flavor when exposed to oxygen. Fresh juice from navels is great, however, when used right away. Even though most websites say that freezing the juice leads to the same result, we haven’t found that to be the case. Most folks just peel or slice them and eat them as is. Their sweet citrus flavor makes them hard to resist, making them a welcome dose of sunshine on dreary winter days.
Grapefruit (Origin and History) Our pink and white grapefruit ripen around February. Like the navels, they continue to ripen and sweeten all year long. If we have a big crop it’s not unusual for us to have grapefruits available all year round. Our grapefruit are very large, thick skinned, and incredibly sweet and juicy. Many people who don’t like store-bought grapefruit enjoy ours.