Mandarins at Monterey Market, Berkeley, California
I KNOW, I’VE SAID IT BEFORE, but it’s worth saying again: The mandarin is a wonderful winter treat, the season’s ultimate snack fruit.
If you can find mandarins in the store with leaves intact — and the leaves look nice and fresh — that’s the best indication that the fruit is fresh, picked only shortly before being shipped to market.
Mandarins, tangerines, clementines — what’s it all about? What are Pages and Sumos, Murcotts and Tangos? And what about Cuties and Halos (commercial brand names for mandarins) — and why are they better later in the season, from January to April?
Find out the answers to all of these questions and more in the excellent recent New York Times’ article, Mandarin Oranges: Rising Stars of the Fruit Bowl, by fruit expert David Karp.
For my other post about mandarins, including a mandarin cocktail, click here.
Mandarins and oranges — both in their winter prime.
I have the great good fortune to be spending the month of January in Southern California, in the beach town of Carpinteria near Santa Barbara, where there are five farmers markets a week in a 20-mile radius. One of them, every Thursday, is just down the block! Having so many fresh fruits and vegetables is something of a miracle, but the seasonal highlight for me is always citrus.
Wherever you are this winter, unless you are a strict locavore, you can enjoy the wonder of citrus.
Oranges are at their best this time of year and it’s hard to go wrong with a nice juicy navel orange.
Fruit aficionado David Karp, who writes Market Watch for the L.A. Times, recently had this to say about mandarins. “Mandarins at their best are the noblest of citrus, with intense, complex aromatics and fascinating varietal identities,” he writes. We drove up to the farmers market in Ojai to find some tasty clementines and Lee mandarins from Friend’s Ranch and they are both delicious.
You probably won’t find Lee mandarins, but grocery stores are full of clementines, often marketed as “Cuties” or “Bee Sweet” or “Sweeties” or some other name. Another easy to find (and easy to peel “zipper skin”) mandarin is the Satsuma.
Blood orange, Satsuma mandarin
Now, I know I’m usually talking about lemons, and for once I have enough to keep me going for awhile. I toured the Saticoy Lemon Association packing plant the other day and came away with a wonderful gift: a big box of lemons!
It’s a cliche, but I will be making lemonade — and more!