Bright bursts of orange, yellow, green and red greeted market-goers last Sunday as Southern California officially ushered in citrus season.
Though most people think of citrus as a summer fruit, winter and early spring is when the bulk of oranges, lemons, tangerines and grapefruits are harvested in the state. Next to Florida, the Golden State has the highest yield of citrus in the US.
At least two growers, G Farms and Fresha Farms had the most bountiful harvest of the vitamin-C rich fruits.
The Exeter-based G Farms had the most extensive selection of eating oranges starting at $2 a pound.
Employee Manuel Salazar singled out blood oranges as the most popular variety this season due to their intense orange taste with raspberry hints.
Blood oranges are also known for their red to deep maroon interior and thin skin. Salazar described them as being “almost seedless.”
Both G Farms and Fresha Farms also had navel oranges, which are seedless and widely considered the world’s finest for eating. Cara cara oranges, those exceptionally sweet oranges with a pinkish red interior, were also available.
Cara caras make excellent additions to salads, cereals, yogurt, pancakes, waffles, grilled meat or poultry.
Next to oranges, grapefruits are very much in demand, according to Salazar. Widely available from January to June, there were three varieties of this large citrus fruit: oro blanco, red and pomelo.
Oro blancos are a cross between a white grapefruit and an acidless pomelo. Their bright green exterior make them easily identifiable. This grapefruit variety is all the rage due to its sweet flavor and the lack of bitterness usually associated with grapefruits.
“The pomelo or Chinese grapefruit is popular around this time of year or right around the Chinese New Year,” said Choi. It is known for its mild taste and aromatic scent. Red grapefruit, on the other hand, is good for making juice.
High in dietary fiber, the grapefruit got its name from the way it grows on trees, similar to grapes.
Most grapefruits go well with avocados and green salads. “Look for the ones that are firm, smooth and are heavy for their size,” Salazar said.
Three tangerine varieties–clementines, tangelos and mandarins–were also plentiful at the G Farms booth, for $2 a pound.
Smaller than oranges and easier to peel, clementines are marketed in the US as “cuties.” First grown in Algeria, this seedless hybrid variety was introduced in California in the early 1900s. They are widely popular and make great on-the-go snacks.
Another hybrid, the tangelos, are steadily gaining a following at the farmers market. A cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine, tangelos are known for their juicy and mildly sweet flavor.
More complex and sweeter than the first two varieties are the mandarins. Both the tangelos and mandarins lend an exotic flavor to salads, desserts and entrees.
With oranges, grapefruits and tangerines around, can lemons be that far behind?
For $2 a pound, market-goers had a choice between the Meyer and Lisbon lemons.
Meyers are sweeter, less acidic and more fragrant. Named after Frank Meyer, the gentleman who discovered them in 1908, this lemon variety is actually a lemon-orange mix. Lisbons are generally more sour than Meyers.
These versatile fruits are rich in vitamin C, potassium and folic acid. Lemon zest can be added to cakes, pastries, salads and drinking water. Placed inside glass vases or containers, they make eye-catching decorations or table centerpieces.
Choi shared some buying tips: select lemons that are bright yellow in color, shiny and plump. Heavy, thin-skinned lemons will give you the maximum amount of juice, she said.
The Agoura Farmers Market is open from 9 am to 2 pm every Sunday at 5835 Kanan Rd.