New Citrus Varieties Capturing Attention at the Farmers Market

BY DEBRA J. MORRIS

California is synonymous with citrus and has a long history of developing new varieties for continuing customer needs. With a strong market for oranges, tangerines, and grapefruit, farmers are continually working to create new and delicious hybrids for your table. Older varieties are still deeply rooted in the growing history of California and are still very popular with customers, outliving market trends.

We’d like to spread the word about citrus as well. Some of the new and tasty citrus coming down the pipeline and into your farmers market this winter range from mandarins to grapefruit, lemons to oranges.

1. Mandarins: California mandarins have grown in popularity with their sweet, slightly-less acidic flavor and unique, easy-peel rind. By the way, tangerines are hybrids of the original mandarin orange. There are new Page, Satsuma, Murcott, Dancy, Tango, Okitzu, and Daisy. J&J Ramos Farms out of Hughson has mandarins like the popular Golden Nugget, Shasta Gold, and Page mandarins.

2. Tangelos/Minneolas: Tangelo oranges are a cross between a Dancy tangerine and a Duncan grapefruit. The “lo” part of “tangelo” comes from “pomelo,” the fruit from which grapefruit originated. Confused yet? They’re also known as Minneola oranges and Honeybells.

3. Blood oranges: Late-season navel blood oranges are a fairly new variety, mostly grown in California. They’re designed to extend the season through the spring months. They’re also called raspberry oranges because the name blood orange was found to be rather off-putting. This orange also has a rather fruity raspberry citrus flavor.

4. Navel oranges: Several varieties are appearing, such as the Atwood, derived from the Washington navel, pink Cara Cara navel oranges, Late Lane variety, also from the Washington navel but late season, and the old Valencia variety, used mostly for juicing.

5. Grapefruit: Grapefruit is a cross between a sweet orange and a pomelo and comes in over 20 varieties nationwide. The varieties grown in California are mostly the Oro Blanco, a sweet, juicy and seedless variety, and the Star Ruby, prized for its beautiful, deep red color and exceptional sweet-tart flavor.

6. Pomelos: The Chandler, or Pink, pomelo is an exceptionally large fruit with a yellow to yellow-pink rind and has a light to dark pink-colored, juicy flesh is mostly sweet but slightly tart flesh. There are also varieties with a greenish skin and yellow flesh called the Melogold which is a cross between a grapefruit and a pomelo. Ken’s Top Notch from Fresno has a wide array of citrus like grapefruit and pomelos.

7. Lemons: The favorite specialty variety of lemon in California is the Meyer with a subtly sweet, mellow flavor. It’s a cross between a mandarin orange and a standard lemon. The standard lemons are Lisbon and Eureka varieties, more tart and great for zesting.

Look for new and delicious varieties of winter citrus at your local farmers’ market where you’ll find the best, just-picked citrus from local farms. Stop by the Martinez Farmers Market and get a taste of California’s fresh citrus.

Blood Orange Marmalade
2-1/2 pounds of blood oranges
4 to 4-1/4 cups of sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice, Grand Marnier, Aperol or Campari
1 generous pinch of salt

Place a plate in the freezer. Slice the tops and bottoms off all the oranges. Cut the oranges into quarters and then into 1/4-inch thick wedges. Place them in a pot 4 times larger than the volume you are cooking ~ as you cook the sugar it will bubble up…don’t let it bubble over! Cover the oranges with water and simmer for 20 minutes to soften the peel.

After 20 minutes, add the sugar, salt, and lemon juice, if you are using it. If you are using alcohol instead of lemon juice, you will be prompted to add it later in the recipe. Stir to dissolve and simmer 1-2 hours, or until the mixture hits 226°F.

Give marmalade the gel test. Put a spoonful of the marmalade on the frozen plate. If it stays in a raised mound, then your marmalade is almost done! If not, continue cooking until it reaches the desired consistency. If using alcohol to flavor instead of lemon juice, add it just after the jam is taken off the heat. Store in your refrigerator for a few weeks; store in the freezer; or process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.

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