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.