Home Posts tagged 'Citrus'

Posts Tagged ‘Citrus’


Citrus For All!

California grows more varieties of citrus than any other state— from the large Valencia Orange orchards near the border of Mexico, to the small Satsuma Mandarin orchards in the foothills of the Sierra. There’s a flavor for everyone! At Bi-Rite we strive to have a wide selection of great tasting and sustainably grown citrus that can be eaten in a number of different ways.

Mandarin Mania
Mandarin season usually starts in California in the beginning of November with the easy-peeling, refreshing Satsuma Mandarin and ends with the seedless, candy-like Pixie Tangerine in April. There are a handful of other varieties that hit the Bi-Rite shelves in the interim. The little seedless Kishu Mandarin from the mountains of Ojai, California has everyone excited from neighborhood kindergarteners to world-class San Francisco Chefs. Toss it in a green salad or a fried rice dish to add a sweet and juicy flare. Some of the other mandarin varieties that are just making their way to the market: Gold Nuggets, Murcotts, Pages and Clementine. All of these exciting mandarin varieties also make for a fun time with the juicing machine.
Orange Crush
There are three varieties of oranges right now that are so delicious it’s hard not to eat all three on a regular basis and spread the love. Cara Cara Oranges, aka the Pink Navels — from Tenalu Farm in Porterville, California — have been out of this world and their middle acid and sweet juicy flavor make them a perfect addition to a chicory salad. Tenalu also grows wonderful Heirloom Navel Oranges that have a little more acid than the Cara Cara but are also a bit sweeter. The Moro Blood Oranges are just getting started and with their nicely balanced sweet/tart flavor and berry-like tones they may be the most versatile piece of citrus in the kitchen. The Fennel, Blood Orange, Avocado Salad from our cook book Eat Good Food is great recipe if you’re looking for a quick and easy seasonal salad.

Grapefruit Goodness
The days of cutting a Florida grapefruit in half and sprinkling sugar on it to cut the bitterness before gobbling it up with a spoon are over. The grapefruit scene has come a long way since the mid-80’s and the Bi-Rite produce crew is super excited about a few varieties that have become a big part of our citrus selection. For folks who just want an everyday grapefruit we always have a Star Ruby Grapefruit from Bernard Ranch in Riverside, California with its beautiful dark pink flesh and sweet/tart flavor. Bi-Rite staff have been rallying around the Pomelo from Tenalu Farm this year. This large piece of citrus is perfect for folks who want a mild sweetness and not an overwhelming amount of juice. The Cocktail Grapefruit from Cunningham Orchard in Fallbrook, California is a very unique piece of fruit. This cross between a Siamese Sweet Pomelo and Frua Mandarin produces the most amazing sub-acid sweet juice perfect for cocktails, syrups, sauces, and more.

It’s OK to be Sour
Sour oranges are the most unique California citrus crop and call for some creativity in the kitchen. The Seville Orange with its thick bumpy skin smells like a regular orange but the flavor is tart and sour. Sevilles have very oily skin that is used for essential oils. The most common use for Seville Oranges is marmalade, but it also works well in syrups, vinaigrettes and cocktails. The Bergamot Orange is a cross between a sour orange and lemon, most commonly known for the oil from the skin that is used in Earl Grey tea. The zest is used to flavor cakes and cookies and the juice is used for syrups, cocktails, and jams.

California citrus season is a 5 to 6 month long tasting journey that offers so many marvelous flavors. At Bi-Rite we love to celebrate this time of year with the “Citrus Explosion” by offering over 20 varieties in our produce department at one time. If you would like to learn more about this incredible crop please make your way to one of our produce departments and ask for a sample of all the varieties we have in-house!


Citrus Juice Everywhere!

CitrusClementinesWhen January rolls around the selection of fresh fruit and veggies from our local growers is not as abundant as other times of the year. Winter is when local farmers try to take a little time off, plan for the upcoming season and build their beautiful soil. At both Bi-Rite’s we are so excited to celebrate California’s main winter crop, CITRUS! Cali citrus season is a wonderful joy ride from local Satsuma Mandarins in November till the “sweet like candy” Pixie Tangerines in early spring and the flavors are so unique from one variety to another.  Our produce buyers are always trying to find the best tasting fruit available and they love to see how many different varieties we can get on the shelves at one time.

BloodOrangeWe also love to build relationships with farmers throughout California and promote their farming practices and amazing produce.  It’s a lot easier to build these relationships with vegetable farmers because they are all over Northern California.  Citrus farmers on the other hand are mainly in Central and Southern California and grow on a larger scale which leads to using distribution companies to get their fruit to the Bay Area. Citrus is also a less perishable crop and can be harvested and stored without the stress that the more perishable vegetable crops bring.  Well, this isn’t completely true, citrus growers deal with plenty of stress! The freezing cold weather that hit all of California in early December actually damaged citrus crops throughout the state. This  being said we are still have almost 20 varieties at our stores right now and the flavors are as delicious as ever. The peak of California season is usually in February and the Citrus Bomb at Bi-Rite will be exploding with up to 25-30 different varieties!

Moms LOVE Mandarins
One of the main reasons California citrus is the best are all the different varieties of Mandarins that are harvested for up to 5-6 months of the year.  This gives all the Moms the opportunity to give their kids sweet, seedless and easy-peeling fruit as their daily treat.  Mandarin season starts with the seedless Satsuma in late November and then rolls right Clementine Tangerines and the Algerian is the most common variety.  We are very fortunate to get most of clementine’s from straight from the Tangerine Man,” Jim Churchill who farms in the beautiful mountains Ojai which is just South East of Santa Barbara.  Jim is a top-notch specialty citrus grower who works cooperatively with other growers in the Ojai area, helping them distribute their fruit throughout California. We are just starting to get the clementines from Ojai, along with Kishu Mandarins. These little, sweet, seedless “pop the whole thing in your mouth” mandarins are about as unique a citrus variety as you’ll see. They have the classic tangerine flavor!

Mandarins vs. Tangerines: What is the difference?
This is one most common guest question in our produce department. Not only do they both originate from China and taste and look alike but they grow on very similar trees. Tangerines are a special type of mandarin, so a tangerine can be called a mandarin but the reverse of this not true. The tangerine skin tends to be thicker with bumps and the orange color is usually a little darker.

Some of the other mandarin varieties you’ll find at Bi-Rite are the Murcott Tangerine and Page Mandarins. The Murcott Tangerines from Deer Creek Heights in Porterville about are another sweet and juicy variety but the early season fruit has a nice level of tartness for the folks who love a little extra pop. The Page Mandarin is a sweet, juicy, rich flavored cross between a Minneola Tangelo and a Clementine. They do have a few seeds but are still an ea

CitrusMandarinsThe Heirloom Washington Navel Oranges from Deer Creek Heights are harvested at their peak level of ripeness and offer the perfect balance of sweet and tart.  Citrus like a lot of fruit that grows on trees need to develop their sugars on the tree before they are picked.  A lot of commercial citrus may look good from the outside but when you bite into it they are overwhelming tart and not sweet enough.  Most of the commercial growers harvest citrus according to when the market price is best and not when the flavor is the best.

PinkMandarinThe #1 selling pieces of citrus at Bi-Rite this season has been the Cara Cara Pink Navel from Tenalu in Porterville.  It looks very similar to the Navel orange but when it’s cut in half the pink flesh shows that this is not your average orange. The Cara Cara is very juicy and sweet like the Navel but is not nearly as acidic.  It’s one of the most versatile pieces of citrus, eats great out of hand, makes the yummy juice and when segmented goes perfectly on the winter chicories salad.  The other orange variety that is great with chicories and just starting taste great is the Moro Blood Orange.  This Italian variety is named after its blood-like flesh and is one of the most complex flavored pieces of citrus all year.  Bloods have a nice balance of sweet/tart but also have berry tones coming through in the flavor.

For those of you who are more creative and love to get in the kitchen and make marmalades, syrups, marinades, etc., we have the Seville and Bergamot Sour Oranges. The bergamot is widely known for the oils from the rind that is used to make Earl Grey tea but both this varieties have great skin for zest.

Got Grapefruits

CitrusCocktailGrapefruitsAt the market we love to find a new vegetable or fruit that might be popular at a handful of restaurants but hasn’t yet hit the grocery store scene. Grapefruits are one of these crops and growing up back east my only experience with grapefruits was cutting a red-flesh variety in half, sprinkling sugar on it and eating for breakfast. The sugar always came along to mask the bitterness of the fruit. We are lucky in California to have numerous grapefruit varieties that different flavor profiles and really change the way we can enjoy grapefruits.  Cocktail Grapefruits (a cross between a Frua Mandarin and a Pomelo) from Cunningham Organic Farm in Fallbrook continue to create a buzz their delicious and much sweeter and less acidic flesh than traditional grapefruit. The Chandler Pummelos from Tenalu have beautiful large segments of flesh that aren’t overly juicy and are lot less pithy than is typical. The Oro Blanco Grapefruits is a white-flesh, low acid piece of fruit, great for eating out of hand, juicing, and in cocktails.

Citrus season at Bi-Rite is a blast and we just lit the wick some come on in and let all the terrific flavors explode your mouth!