Archive for February, 2014
What citrus is small enough to pop in your mouth? If you guessed a kumquat you’re correct!
Kumquats are a unique member of the citrus family and are thought to come from China. The two main varieties of kumquats are the sweet and tart oval shaped Nagami and the sweet round Meiwa. There are many other varieties of kumquats and hybrid kumquats including the Limequat, Orangequat and Yuzquat. Today let’s take a closer look at the Nagami kumquat.
The versatile bite sized Nagami kumquat is small and fun to eat. They don’t need to be peeled which makes them perfect for snacking. Their sweet flavor comes from the rind and the tartness is in the flesh. The inch long Nagami is completely edible including the seeds. You are in for a powerful sensory experience as the ZING of the sourness hits your taste buds and your mouth puckers up.
How to eat a kumquat:
Let the fruit come to room temperature and then gently rub the kumquat between the palms of your hand to get the juices and oil going, releasing the amazing citrus fragrance. Pop them in your mouth and enjoy!
My new favorite way to eat them this year is to slice them up and add them to a quinoa salad made with yogurt and your favorite veggies. Put the filling in a toasted wheat pita and you have a healthy lunch.
Kumquats can be hard to find at times but worth searching out. California leads the nation in production. Northern San Diego County is where many farms focus on specialty crops such as kumquats but they can be found growing as far north as Placerville, north of Sacramento.
Nagami kumquats will be special the week of March 3rd. Get them while they are in season!
Remember that freeze back in December? Here is another chapter in the ongoing story. Some of the areas hit hardest by the freeze were Fresno and Kern Counties in the San Joaquin Valley. Unfortunately freeze damage is not always apparent right away and sometimes it takes weeks for the damage to show up. The freezing cold weather causes the liquid inside the cells of the fruit to freeze, cracking the cells and drying out the piece of fruit leaving it with little juice and poor flavor. The fruit that survived the freeze has a beautiful orange peel and is juicy with a rich, sweet flavor.
As the weather continues to warm up, Rick Schellenberg from Schellenberg Farms in Reedley, Fresno County has begun to distinguish the damaged fruit from the good fruit. Rick looks for three main items when separating the bad from the good fruit:
- Indentations in the skin indicating dehydration.
- Ice marks that form on the outside of the fruit leave rough spots and scratches. This could mean internal damage.
- A dried out cavity. He tests for this by gently applying pressure to the fruit and looking for give in some areas and not in others.
Rick waited over a month to let the fruit dry out after the damage had been done. His next step is to use a sorting machine to separate out the bad fruit. An infrared light looks through the fruit and distinguishes if there is consistent moisture present, indicating a good piece of fruit. The problem is that there could still be 100% moisture content showing up on the machine for a piece of fruit with a damaged cavity that hasn’t dried out completely. Sorting the fruit will be a struggle and time consuming process, delaying the start of his Murcotts by at least a week or two. We can expect to receive our first Schellenberg Murcott shipment sometime in early March.
Buyers should be aware that this sorting process is not 100% fool proof and there is a possibility that some of the damaged pieces of fruit could slip through the cracks. Avoid uneven puffy fruit that is firm on one side and soft on the other. A good piece of fruit should feel heavy for its size which means it is full of juice. I bought a case of mandarins last week and when I was juicing them I noticed one piece of fruit that was as light as a feather with puffy skin that sunk in when I applied pressure. I was not surprised when I peeled it open and the fruit was completely dried out. The rest of the case was simply delicious and I continue to enjoy a fresh glass of juice each morning.
Fremont Tangerines are actually Mandarins and are a cross between a sweet, rich and aromatic Clementine and a mildly sweet and aromatic Ponkan mandarin. Slices of the Fremont Tangerine decorated Earl’s Kitchen table this morning.
Earl’s employees described the Fremont as having a “well-balanced sweet and tangy flavor”, “deep orange citrus flavor” and “mildly sweet, juicy and refreshing.” Fruit can vary in size from small to medium, usually contains seeds and is very easy to peel. The season will continue into early spring this year because the lack of rain has caused the fruit to size up slower and be harvested later.
Fremonts are perfect eaten out of hand but also pair well with sweet and savory dishes like an Apple Avocado salad with tangerine dressing, Thai Beef with a Tangerine Sauce and for dessert substitute Fremont Tangerine juice for lemons in this delicious muffin recipe.
It has been an interesting off season for berries on the West Coast. Usually the cold winter weather knocks out the berries around November but this year there was no interruption due to the mild coastal temperatures and low rainfall in Mexico’s Baja region and Oxnard, Ca. This year’s drought produced the largest “off” early season ever.
Strawberries hardly stopped production and continue to be in good supply. Raspberries don’t have much acreage planted so that supply is always tight and imports are scarce.
Blueberries had some drama as the Chilean blueberries had certain growing areas affected by the European Grapevine Moth and required fumigation, eliminating those berries from being sold as organic. The moth is considered a threat to the U.S. crops and all efforts are being made to prevent it from spreading. Typically the Chilean blueberry crop ends at the end of March but we anticipate it ending a month early this year.
The domestic blueberry crop has grown in winter and early spring as hoop tunnel cultivation in micro-climates has expanded. There were a sufficient supply of blueberries that survived the early December freeze with reasonable prices. That winter production is waning now but late April will herald the next summer crop.
Catch Earl’s “What’s In Season” this weekend on An Organic Conversation with a full update on off season berries. The main topic of the show is “Camino de Santiago: A Walk to Remember”. If you miss the weekend radio show you can always download the podcast.
NEW at Earl’s! The Tango Mandarin is the offspring of the late variety W. Murcott, with the same flavor profile but seedless. The Tango like the Murcott has thin fragrant golden orange pebbled skin which is fairly easy to peel. The flesh is bright orange, rich, juicy and sweet. It is the perfect juicing mandarin!
Earl’s Tango Mandarins are coming from Homegrown Organic Farms in Porterville, CA about an hour north of Bakersfield.