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Pixie Tangerine of Ojai Valley

Citrus reticulata blanco

Spanish missionaries introduced the citrus fruits to California in the 1700s. By the late 1800s, citrus was a major crop in California and the growers had organized into a cooperative to most effectively sell the fruits. With all of the citrus buzz, the state universities became involved in citrus research and in 1927 the University of California Riverside Citrus Research Station developed the Pixie Tangerine. To create this citrus, they used a King mandarin—that came from Saigon in 1882—and a Kincy tangerine—America’s most plentiful and popular Christmas tangerine.

Pixie is one of the latest maturing citrus varieties, ripening in March, April and May when they are harvested by hand. Small, firm, seedless fruits grow on vigorous trees. The rind is thick and pale orange to yellowish orange and it is very easy to peel. The fruit’s juicy flesh has a floral aroma and its flavor is pleasantly sweet and full. Because the color is light and the season is late, many consumers pass up the ripe Pixies, thinking they are faded leftovers from winter’s high tangerine season.

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. 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. Among the Ojai Pixie growers there are both conventional and organic farmers. Together they have 110 acres planted to Pixies.

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