Mad for mandarins!
Small citrus means big business for California farmers.
What’s bright orange, fits in your pocket and has marketing potential in California? If you answered “mandarin oranges,” you’d be right. While navel and Valencia oranges account for two-thirds of the state’s citrus crop, there’s something gaining in popularity these days—their pint-size peers: the mandarin and its citrus cousins the tangerine and the Clementine. In fact, they’re so popular here, California may someday overtake the citrus capital of the United States—Florida—in production of the smaller citrus. This doesn’t surprise farmers like Craig Kaprelian one bit.
Craig and his marketing partner, Duda Farms, harvest hundreds of thousands of petite citrus a day in Visalia. After harvest the fruit is carefully inspected, washed and packed. Anything that doesn’t look absolutely perfect will go on to be used for juice or in citrus-scented products like candles and lotions.
But one of the first things to get straight about these pocket-size powerhouses is their names. You see, a tangerine and a Clementine are both part of the mandarin orange family. And while each has different characteristics, all three are sweet and versatile and are becoming the darlings of farmers who see their marketing possibilities and chefs who see their menu possibilities.
At the Marché restaurant in the Bay Area community of Menlo Park, they have a carefully crafted seasonal menu that pastry chef Adrienne Garcia embraces as she uses the best ingredients farmers offer her. This approach allows her to create dishes that let produce, like mandarins, be the true stars of the menu.
“It’s like a nice little snack for people. It just makes me happy, little mandarins like this,” she said.
Adrienne adds that the sweetness of the fruit is great for her because she doesn’t have to add a lot of sauces or toppings to her desserts. She can keep them light and allow the fruit to shine on its own.
To Craig, bringing what chefs and consumers want to market means more than just farming. He’s also a plant breeder, working to develop new varieties to meet market demand. He also stays ahead of the game with new technology as well as new planting and growing techniques.
And as mandarins continue to develop a reputation as a healthy snack and recipe ingredient, more Californians may realize that bigger isn’t always better in the produce world.
For more information about Duda Farms, visit www.duda.com.
For more information about Marché restaurant, visit www.restaurantmarche.com.