The mandarins are ripening
Cool nights are just what the doctor orders for Placer County’s famous Owari Satsuma mandarin oranges to start turning color and developing the sweetness and intense flavor that foothills mandarins are known for — just in time for the 19th Annual Mountain Mandarin Festival in Auburn.
According to Gary Gilligan, CEO of the Mountain Mandarin Festival, the cool nights are just what is needed to have plenty of the ripe citrus on hand for the annual event which heralds the first of the harvest each year.
The Placer grown mandarin oranges are the featured guests of honor at the annual festival. The festival attracts upwards of 30,000 visitors to Auburn from throughout Northern California and the Reno-Tahoe area.
Mandarin growers in Placer County should have plenty of fruit available for the festival where thousands of pounds in familiar orange mesh bags are sold each year.
Early mandarins should be golden in color, and sweet with a little tartness due to citric and other acids. That sugar-acid balance is what connoisseurs of foothills-grown mandarins look for.
During warm sunny days, the plants are using the sun to make sugars and other flavor components and cool nights allow these to accumulate in the fruit, and stimulates the color change. As the season progresses, tartness in the fruit declines and the fruit gets sweeter.
Placer County was home to many mandarin orchards before World War II, and now boasts more than 85 growers. Bob Bonk, Snow’s Citrus Court, and president of the Foothills Farmers Markets/Placer Grown said, “The recent sunshine on the trees is great, but it is the cool foothill nights that makes our mandarins the best in the west, just like the foggy regions are great for grapes.”
The Mountain Mandarin Festival will be held Friday through Sunday, Nov. 16-18 at the Gold Country Fairgrounds, 1273 High St. in Auburn. Hours of the festival are Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Admission on Friday is only $3 or free with two non-perishable food items for the Auburn Food Closet. Saturday and Sunday admission is $7 for adults, seniors $5, ages 12 and under are free.
Gold County Fairgrounds parking is $5 and there is some street parking available.
For more information on the Mountain Mandarin Festival and one-stop shopping for holiday mandarin oranges visit mandarinfestival.com or call 916-663-1918.
For more information on the Mandarin orchards and purchasing after the festival visit mountainmandarins.com.