Pixie Tangerine of Ojai Valley

Ark of taste
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The Pixie is one of the latest maturing varieties – ripening in March, April and May when they are harvested by hand. They are small, firm, seedless fruits growing on vigorous, erect trees. The thick rind, pale orange to yellowish orange, is very easy to peel although small amounts of albedo remain on the segments. The fruit’s juicy flesh has a floral aroma. The flavor is pleasantly sweet and full, if the trees are grown properly in the right micro-climate. Pale in color, it lacks the eye appeal of darker tangerines. Because the color is soft and the season is late, many consumers pass up the ripe Pixies, thinking they are faded leftovers from winter’s high tangerine season. Spanish missionaries introduced citrus to California in the 1700s. By the late 1800s, citrus was a major crop in California and the growers had organized into a marketing cooperative. The state’s universities became involved in citrus research; the University of California Riverside Citrus Research Station started the development of the Pixie in 1927. They used seed open-pollinated on a King mandarin X Dancy tangerine hybrid named Kincy. The King had come to Riverside from Saigon in 1882; the Dancy is America’s most plentiful and popular Christmas tangerine. U.C. developed the Pixie over decades, finally releasing it in 1965 as a backyard crop of little commercial potential. According to grower Jim Churchill, the Ojai Valley has perfect conditions for the variety: hot summers, cold winters, some fog in June but not in the winter. “The Pixie is our community’s enterprise,” says Ojai Valley grower Churchill. “This sweet fruit can’t be grown just anywhere.” Jim and 16 other citrus farmers have formed a loose-knit organization called the Ojai Pixie Growers Association. The growers rely on one another for assistance, research and marketing push. “We have no support from the university; we have to figure things out ourselves,” says Churchill. Most citrus growing protocols are appropriate for navel oranges, not Pixies. Among the Ojai Pixie growers there are both conventional and organic farmers. Together they have 110 acres planted to Pixies (15,000 trees at 135/acre). In 2002 the Ojai Valley harvest was 300,000 pounds, and the growers predicted a yield of 500,000 pounds in 2003. Production will increase as young trees begin to bear.

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StateUnited States