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Sespe Creek Organics

I walked in the door this morning to find a cut Sespe Creek navel on Earl’s kitchen table.  I was blown away by the bright orange color and how super sweet and juicy it was.  What a way to start off my Monday morning!

Sespe Creek is located in Fillmore, CA in an inland coastal area, surrounded by mountains between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles.  John Wise started farming in 1983 and bought Sespe Creek orchards in 1987 with his Dad.  He transitioned to organic in 1988 and in 1991 became certified organic by the CCOF.  To this day it is still a family run business with John’s wife taking care of food safety and his daughter doing some of the farming.  John has 300 acres of navel oranges, blood oranges, valencia oranges, grapefruit, avocado, lemons and golden nugget mandarins. He is also starting to grow a hybrid variety of mandarin called Tahoe Gold.

Navel oranges are seedless and have a thick skin which is easy to peel and helps to protect the fruit from cold weather.  A navel orange is a special type of orange with a little surprise inside, a partially formed undeveloped fruit like a conjoined twin, located at the blossom end of the fruit. From the outside, the blossom end is looks like a human navel, leading to the common name of “navel orange.”

Growing citrus in a coastal area takes longer to mature and they are complex in taste.  John waits until his navels taste good before picking, usually at the end of January or beginning of February when they have a good balance of acid and sugar.  Navels are not good for juicing because of a bitterness caused by limonin, a naturally occurring bitter compound found in citrus.  They are perfect out of hand, in a fruit salad or try them in this delicious Orange, Olive and Fennel salad.  Although many people start purchasing navels around the winter holidays, they are at their peak from March to April so don’t miss out while they are at their best!

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