The California Citrus Experience is in full swing at the Bi-Rite Family of Businesses! The beginning of February is when the California citrus season hits its peak, with so many diverse varieties and flavors. Whether you want a piece of citrus to quickly peel and eat, or a variety to make your Grandma’s favorite citrus marmalade recipe, we have you covered.
Throughout California there are many different micro-climates that have the advantage in growing specific types of citrus. In the mountains of Ojai, just southeast of Santa Barbara, there’s a collective of farmers that grow some of the sweetest fruit you can find in the state. Jim at Churchill Orchards is the master of growing Kishu and Pixie Tangerines. The Pixie harvest doesn’t start until the end of February, but the bite-sized Kishu Tangerines are perfect right now. The Kishu is a seedless, easy-peeling, about 2 inches in diameter, and kids love them!
Growing up back East, my main experience with grapefruits was cutting a Rio Star Grapefruit in half, sprinkling sugar on it to cut the tart flavor, and eating it with a spoon. The grapefruit situation in California now is at a whole other level. Grapefruits are historically known as a high-acid fruit, and most of the time the acid dominates the sweet flavor. We currently have three to five different grapefruit varieties in the Produce Department, and they all have their own unique flavor profile. The Melogold Grapefruit from Deer Creek Heights Ranch in Porterville is a cross between Siamese Sweet Pomelo and a Duncan White Grapefruit. They have the sweet juicy Pomelo flavor and very few seeds. The Cocktail Grapefruit from Cunningham Organic Farm in Fallbrook is very special because of the “acidless” flavor — it’s the best for juicing and making cocktails.
The California Citrus Experience at Bi-Rite wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t offer our guest some creative cocktail recipes to try out all this amazing fruit. Josh Harris of The Bon Vivants was kind enough to create a few recipes that highlight not only citrus but some of our artisan liquors. The Spicy Paloma is the perfect cocktail to showcase these unique grapefruit varieties.
Not all citrus is for eating out of hand. Some varieties need a preparation before consumption. There are two varieties that are really hard to find and are the most versatile in the kitchen. The Seville Orange is sour, tart, and full of seeds but it’s very juicy, and it offers fragrant essential oils, and is perfect for marmalade. The Bergamot Oranges are most commonly known for its skin’s essential oil, used in Earl Grey tea (and Bi-Rite Creamery’s Earl Grey Ice Cream!) It’s a combination of sour orange and lemon, and both characteristics come through in the appearance and flavor. Here’s another wonderful cocktail recipe that highlights both of these sour oranges! We are loving the California Citrus Experience at the Bi-Rite Family of Business, and we hope you are too!