Winter Citrus Harvest Update
In our last few blogs we discussed how the heavy rains in California could possibly affect the citrus harvest. The fruit becomes waterlogged which can cause mold, possible rind breakdown also known as “clear rot” and a shorter shelf life. All of that water also disperses the sugar and dilutes the flavor. The growers need to wait until the fruit dries out and the sugars are redistributed before picking again. Picking the fruit after the rain can leave bruise marks on the fruit and the oil from the workers hands can change the skin from orange to yellow. Only time will tell if the fruit has been affected and just now we are noticing some bruising on fruit that was picked last week during the break from the rain. As mentioned before we may or may not see gaps on varietal citrus in the coming weeks as the heavy rain continues.
The biggest side effect from the rain we have seen is from Side Hill Citrus in Lincoln, north of Sacramento. Side Hill Satsuma mandarins, a favorite of everyone at Earl’s, ended a few weeks early this year. There was too much moisture in the fruit due to the rains and the fruit itself lacked the flavor that everyone has come to expect from the grower Rich Ferreira. We hope that you had a chance to try this incredible piece of fruit while it was plentiful.
Winter is citrus time so don’t despair. We have many more varieties in which to look forward. California Navels are coming on stronger and getting sweeter with every land. The outside of the blossom end looks like a human navel and that is how the name came about. Their thick skin allows them to fend off serious water damage and protects them from extreme cold weather. Navels are easy to peel, seedless and are best for eating out of hand. Navels can be juiced but need to be consumed immediately or the juice will turn bitter because of the compound limonin found in the pith. Navels are currently coming out of the central San Joaquin Valley in the Porterville area. The season runs from November through April, with peak supplies in January, February and March coming from the San Joaquin Valley and San Diego County.
Clementine Mandarins are that perfect small to medium piece of fruit to throw in your bag for a snack later. The amount of seeds depends on if there is a pollinator nearby. They are easy to peel with an extremely sweet and juicy, beautiful orange flesh. Clementines come from a group of varieties and are also known as the Algerian mandarin in California. They are coming out of the central San Joaquin Valley and the season runs November through January. Their thin skin means that they are likely to encounter issues with the wet weather.
The Page Mandarin will be available in limited quantities from the Fallbrook area in San Diego County. The Page is a cross between a Minneola tangelo and Clementine Mandarin. Usually seedless with a fantastic rich flavor you can pick them out easily by their bright orange red skin. The season runs from December to May.
Citrus Buying Tip:
During this rainy season we recommend buying less citrus and buying more often. The fruit won’t hold as long so keep what you buy in the refrigerator.
As you know by now produce is weather dependent and supply can change as fast as the weather. We can look forward to Minneolas and Blood Oranges coming around the end of December or beginning of January. Learn about the different varieties of citrus and what to expect in terms of flavor profiles and supplies in future blogs.