For the past fiver or so years, around the holidays, we have looked forward to a shipment of sweet-as-can-be, easy-to-peel, seedless Mandarins from Aron’s parents. Our doorman would warn me that the box was heavy and I’d reassure him that I was stronger than I look before I’d place it under our air conditioner, where some cold air would sneak in through the wall throughout the winter. Our hands would smell faintly of orange peel for the next few weeks as we made our way through the box.
But this year we live only 40 minutes from Miller’s Citrus Grove, the grower from which the Bruhns have been buying the Mandarins for years. They took all of us this weekend to check it out.
As it turns out, there’s also a herd of Madarin-loving goats on Miller’s 5-acre parcel and Mr. Miller handed over a bucket of fruit for Hudson to feed them as soon as we arrived.
After visiting a while with our hairy friends, we climbed up the hill to the fruit grove for a look around. It’s early in the season– in Placer County, the season typically begins in mid-November and lasts through January–so there was a lot of fruit still in the process of ripening. All of the ripening is done on the tree, where it’s best to let the fruit stay to increase its sugar content as long as possible; it’s hard to find mandarins as sweet in stores, where the fruit has usually been picked early for safe transport.
If you find yourself nearby (Miller’s is on the Placer County Mandarin Trail, about 30 miles east of Sacramento), call ahead and ask about picking your own mandarins. Mr. Miller explained to me that he is new to the U-Pick scene and has just purchased souvenir buckets for children and will be taking groups up on a wagon, shears in tow, during upcoming “Orchard days.” Participating Placer County growers will be opening their orchards to the public for tours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the weekend of December 1st.