Pixie

A small note in the latest issue of the University of California newsletter:

Did You Know…

In 1927, H.B. Frost developed the Pixie mandarin orange, one of the 40 varieties of fruit to originate at the UC Riverside Citrus Research Center.

In the 1930s, UC Berkeley food scientist William Cruess invented the canned fruit cocktail.

In 1948, now-legendary UC Davis viticulturalist Harold P. Olmo created the perlette green table grape, one of 30 varieties he developed.

pixie.jpg

‘Pixie’, pictured above, is one of the very best mandarins, and has a proud place in Ladera Frutal’s Tangerine Reality, previously depicted on 13 November, 2005. At the older planting, I noted that I had tried my first ‘Page’ mandarin that day. I only had my first of 2008 today. I wonder what took me so long? The one I had in November three years ago was, I reported, “still a bit tart.” But the one I had today was only slightly short of peak flavor.

‘Pixie’ ripens a bit later in the season, but this year’s are starting to show some nice color. As the photo above shows, the ‘Page’ and ‘Pixie’ each have a lot of fruit that is still green, along with the few that are ripe or ripening. This sort of staggered ripening is unusual for these varieties, in my experience.

I suppose a ripe Pixie would be good even in a canned fruit cocktail, but I prefer them eaten or juiced straight off the tree.

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Orange bloodlines

From left to right, here are a Moro, Sanguinelli, and Tarocco blood orange, all harvested at Ladera Frutal within the past week.

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Obviously, these samples vary quite a bit in both external and internal color, with the Tarocco bloodiest on both sides of the peel.

In favor, they really are quite distinct. This was the first time I had ever tasted two or more different varieties in sequence, as it is our first year of any significant (and overlapping) crops on these trees.

I would rate the Moro as the best flavor, followed by the Tarocco. It is actually not an easy call. The Moro has more of the berry flavor notes that lead some sellers to market these as “raspberry oranges.” The Tarocco is milder, but very balanced and after a few tastes, I started to get some unusual complexity, kind of like a fine red wine. (I have also seen blood oranges sold as “burgundy oranges,” although those I have seen sold that way were always Moros.) The Sanguinelli was the most tart of the three by far, but not overly so. It just has less interesting flavor. However, fruit remaining on the tree may simply benefit from more time, and the tree itself is the smallest and least mature of the three.

The Moro is also the most immediately recognizable as an orange by flavor, despite clear differences when compared to a navel or Valencia. The others taste a bit more like a different class of citrus fruit, with the Tarocco even having a “chewy” texture that could almost make you think it had some grapefruit or pummelo in its bloodlines (though, to my knowledge, it does not).

This Tarocco is not the most common strain sold under that name, but a recent selection that I obtained through a CFRG arrangement with the UCR Citrus Variety Collection. It certainly deserves to be widely released and better known.

Spicy citrus

The Allspice tangelos are finally ripening–a few weeks later than usual.

Allspice.JPG

Like any tangelo, ‘Allspice’ is a hybrid of a grapefruit and a mandarin (tangerine). It lives up to its name, having a flavor that I could not describe in any other way than as “spicy” (not in the hot chile sense, of course!).

The ‘Sarawak’ pummelos are also ripening.

Sarawak.JPG

These also have a somewhat spicy flavor. They taste sort of like a sweet lime, but with complex spicy overtones–unlike anything else you’d ever encounter in a citrus.

Both of these trees are among the thirty or so trees we dug up and moved from the pre-finca in Carlsbad just over four years ago. They have thrived here. The ‘Allspice’ (which tends to be rather tart) tastes much better here, where it gets more warmth, but the ‘Sarawak’ may actually get a more complex flavor in the cooler coastal climate.

Both are sensational, and unfortunately somewhat hard to find.

Tangerine reality!

Look at these Page mandarins (or tangerines)!

Mandarin row

This is our row of mandarins, all different varieties. Six trees in all, with the Page being up front and the first to ripen, and I just tried my first one. Still a bit tart, but I would not be one to complain about that. And with this current weather (low around 45 this morning, high around 78 and more of the same to come), it is perfect weather for bringing out the bright color and the blend of acid and sugar that makes Page one of the finest mandarins.

Next down the row is the Pixie, which ripens much later, but you can see some of the fruit starting to color. Then there is the very ordinary Owari Satsuma (no fruit this year), followed by another real prize: a rare Russian Satsuma. (Where is it warm enough in Russia to grow citrus? Along their short Black Sea coast, I suppose.) There are three more varieties farther down the row, but they are obscured in this view by the monstrosity of a Eureka lemon. Off in the far distance you can see one of the nearby massive Hass avocado groves that make this area the avocado capital of the world.

Fog over grapefruit

I really dislike fog and gloomy weather generally. (I love rain and big storm clouds, on the other hand.)

But I have to admit. When I get up in the morning and see what I saw today, it’s pretty cool.

Fog over Grapefruit

This is from the front veranda of the house, overlooking the grapefruit grove and out to the valley below—just after a dense fog had begun to lift.

Speaking of grapeftuit, I just got word that the pickers will be here tomorrow!