Citruspalooza in Southern California

by Dorothy Reinhold on January 12, 2012

Print This Post Print This Post Citruspalooza in Southern California
Lemon tree

Backyard lemon tree

Winter is an extravaganza of citrus in Southern California. It is almost embarrassing how many varieties we have at our fingertips, whether it is on a tree in our backyard, the farmers market, or the grocery store.

Meyer lemon tree

Meyer lemon tree

Just in my own modest backyard, I have a 1-year-old still-spindly dwarf Meyer lemon, a 10-year-old ignored kumquat, a probably 40-year-old lemon, and an equally mature naval orange.

Still, we buy 5-pound crates of Cuties and Pixies (tangerines) when they hit the store, and my family can whip through 3-5 pounds in a day. A standard after-school snack is 5 or 6 tangerines per kid.

So it was like Christmas the other day when a box of fantastic citrus arrived from the fine folks at Melissa’s Produce.   Oh happy day!

Even if you are familiar with the usual oranges and tangerines from the market, it is worth exploring different varieties, some of which have the potential to become your new favorites.

Let’s meet some new-t0-you kinds of delicious citrus goodness.

Neapolitan MandarinNeapolitan Mandarins: Neapolitan Mandarins (also known as a Page) are a brand new hybrid variety, and they’re naturally super sweet and low acid – kind of a juicy bit of mandarin candy. We declared these the best mandarins we’ve ever had. Ever! They’re seedless, available in limited quantities, right this minute, so if you see them get some, or you’ll be waiting another whole year. These are an exclusive Melissa’s item, available in the produce department at the grocery store.

Cara Cara OrangeCara Cara Oranges: This is also called a red naval orange, because it has a bright orange peel and pinkish flesh. Like the Neapolitan Mandarin, it’s low acid and very sweet. When we dug into these, they were also like an orange candy. Can we rename them? Oh, if all candy were only this good, and good for you! They’re super juicy, and great to eat out of hand. They got their name because they originated at the Hacienda de Cara Cara inValencia,Venezuela.

Blood orangeBlood Oranges: These are just plain fun. Streaked with red inside, they yield a brilliant red juice if you squeeze them. That oughta wake up the wee ones in the morning! This crop had grapefruit undertones (a good thing!), and a pleasant but not over-the-top sweetness. They are gorgeous and unique in a fruit salad, and are de rigueur at trendy restaurants. They’re also seasonal, so get them now, because they’ll be gone in March.

Blood oranges also differ in red saturation from orange to orange, so they will all appear slightly differently hued when you cut them open — just one  of the many charming things about them!

Blood oranges

The best way to eat any of these oranges is out of hand. The mandarins are easy-peelers, and the oranges can be peeled and segmented, or the skin left on and the fruit cut into orange “smiles” for a packed lunch.

Or treat yourself to a glass of interesting and wonderful juice!

orange juices

From left, Neapolitan Mandarin, Blood Orange, Cara Cara Orange and backyard orange.

Best orange joke
(or worst, depending on your perspective)

Boy, 9: Knock knock.
Mom: Who’s there?
Boy: Banana!
Mom: (quizzical look) Banana who?
Boy: Knock knock.
Mom: Who’s there?
Boy: Banana!
Mom: (again with the quizzical look, and more impatiently) Banana WHO?
Boy, 9: Knock knock.
Mom: Who’s there?
Boy: Orange!
Mom: (annoyed look) ORANGE WHO?
Boy: Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?

Booya! You can thank my man cub for that. No charge.


Disclosure: Melissa’s Produce provided samples of the citrus mentioned in this article. My opinions, as always, are my own. 

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Sally Swoyer March 22, 2021 at 8:11 am

Neapolitan tangerine is difficult to peel. What is the best way to access this delicious fruit?


Dorothy Reinhold March 22, 2021 at 4:03 pm

I usually peel all tangerines by hand! If the skin seems too tight, I make a small slit to give my finger somewhere to start, and then I just peel away. See if that works for you.


Nancy Rose Eisman January 13, 2012 at 10:12 am

You have a very fine way with words and your pix are fantastic too. My mouth is so watering – this is the best post ever and a must-read for the citrus curious everywhere!


Dorothy January 13, 2012 at 11:02 am

Thank you for the compliment!


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