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It’s Peak Citrus Time

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Everywhere you look there is an amazing array of colorful and tasty citrus.  Now is the best time of the year to take advantage of all the choices out there. We are at the peak of the citrus season and you just can’t go wrong. Minneolas, navels, blood oranges and varieties of mandarin, tangerines and grapefruits abound!

In the United States citrus can be grown in a narrow area that extends from northern California(think Side Hill Satsumas north of Sacramento), to central California, think Fresno, and down to southern California , mostly in San Diego County and California’s Coachella Valley (Palm Springs down to El Centro).  The area continues eastward through the low-elevation deserts of Arizona, into southern Texas, along the Gulf Coast and south through Florida.  (Lance Walheim, Citrus A Complete Guide)

Earl’s Organic sources the majority of our citrus from California and occasionally Mexico during their season. Climate has an effect on the color, flavor, size and shape of the citrus that can be grown. California has dry summers with cool nights and the cooler nights common in the fall and winter produce citrus with more brightly colored rinds. The majority of rain falls during the winter and heavy rains can water log the citrus which can cause molding, possible rind breakdown and a shorter shelf life.  Now as we reach Valentine’s Day we are in a dry spell which means the citrus is able to develop the necessary sugar levels and continuously be harvested.  Let’s take a look at some of the exciting varieties Earl’s is currently carrying.

California Navel

Navels and Valencias are two of the most common citrus varieties.  California Navel oranges are seedless and their thick, bright orange skin is easy to peel and protects it from extreme cold weather.  Navels are best eaten out of hand because they produce a bitterness from Limonin when they are juiced.  The outside of the blossom end looks like a human navel and that is how the name came about. Depending on the weather, Navel oranges are available from November through April, with peak supplies in January, February and March.

Valencia Orange

Earl’s feels that California Valencias are superior in flavor. They are excellent for juicing and have few or no seeds.  We can look forward to the season starting up in April and going through September-October.

Cara Cara

Cara Cara’s are known as the pink navel. The reddish pink flesh is sweet and is usually seedless. They are available from November to March.

Blood orange

Blood oranges are one of my favorites right now.  The Moro variety is the most popular with flesh that ranges from light orangish red to a dark purple the longer it stays on the tree. The flavor is rich and sweet and perfect for that Sunday mimosa party. They can be found from February through May.


Minneola’s are a type of tangelo which is a hybrid between a Dancy mandarin and a Duncan grapefruit. They look like a bell with a very distinctive knob at the top of the fruit.  Minneola’s need to be grown in very warm climate zones to be sweet. When they are grown on the coastal regions they are too tart.   They are available from January to April.

Page Mandarins

Page Mandarin’s are a cross between a Minneola tangelo and a Clementine mandarin. They are very small to medium sized with an orange red color. They are often seedless and considered one of the best tasting mandarins. They can be found as early as December through May.

Royal Mandarin

Royal Mandarin’s are also called Temple Tangors and are a cross between an orange or a pummelo and a mandarin.  It contains many seeds and has a deep orange-red pebbled rind. They are super juicy! They are available February-March and are a great substitute for a Valencia.

Fremont Tangerine’s are a cross between a Clementine and Ponkan mandarin. They can be very small to medium sized, usually have seeds and are very juicy and easy to peel.  They are found Mid November to February.

Fremont Tangerine

Murcott Tangerine’s are also called Honey tangerines in Florida, not to be confused with the Honey Mandarin from California.  Their origin is unknown but they have an excellent rich flavor and are good for juicing.  The rind is a bright orange and they can have some seeds.  They are available from January to May and taste great right now!

Murcott Tangerine

Grapefruits have the highest heat requirement of all citrus.  There are two types of grapefruit, white fleshed and pigmentedRuby Grapefruits need high heat to develop their light pink flesh. They don’t have many seeds, are easy to peel and are available from November to March.

Rio Red Grapefruit

Rio Red Grapefruit are adapted from the Ruby Red. They were introduced in 1984 and are a bit larger than a Ruby Red. They are extremely sweet right now and have barely any seeds.  They are more difficult to peel than the Ruby. Rio Red’s can be found from January to September.

Star Ruby Grapefruit has the deepest color of the red grapefruits.  They are the small for a grapefruit and not as acidic as other grapefruits. They need really hot summer climates to develop the best flavor and can be found from February to November.

Ruby Red grapefruit

Cocktail Grapefruit’s are not considered a grapefruit but instead are a pummelo-mandarin hybrid.  They are mostly commonly found in California and they can be as big as a pummelo to the size of a grapefruit.  The rind is often a greenish orange with a light orange flesh.

Cocktail grapefruit

They taste very sweet with no acidity and can have many seeds.  They can be found from November to April. Think George Cunningham!

Citrus is not just for eating out of hand. One of my favorite things to do is to juice a few varieties at the same time.  Try a Minneola, Page Mandarin and Murcott juice mix. Pick fruit that is heavy which means more juice. Gently roll your citrus at room temperature on your kitchen counter. This will get the juices flowing.

Add some of that sweet citrus juice to your morning smoothie. I like doing a simple citrus, banana and spinach smoothie with chia seeds. Try the cocktail grapefruit or Ruby Red grapefruit juice in a gin cocktail with seltzer water.

Slice citrus and add to a spinach, fennel salad with toasted almonds. The tropical baked coconut shrimp with tangelo salsa from Eating Well magazine looks delicious.

The possibilities are endless.  Please share your citrus recipe ideas on Earl’s Facebook page.


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