Can you grow avocados in Northern California? Yes!

Mexicola Avocados

About 10 years ago we started investigating what avocados would grow in our Northern California Sierra Foothill location. We are at 1000 feet, and do experience an occasional frost, as well as very hot weather in the summer. Avocados are grown in California, but the varieties you see in the stores, such as Hass and Bacon, are typically grown in mild southern California coastal climates. However, after research we determined that Mexicola hybrids (Mexicola, Mexicola Grande and Mexicola/Stewart) and Pinkerton were some of the best to try in our area so we planted a small orchard of these. The Mexicola types have all gotten mixed up, we are not sure which tree is which now, but they all provide similar fruit.

Our Mexicola hybrid trees have gotten very tall, some of them over 20 feet tall now, and set a crop in the Spring that ripens over the summer and is ready to harvest in the fall. We have found that the trees like a lot of water, and they also are heavy feeders so they receive a lot of compost and organic fertilizer. The fruit does not store well on the trees once the tops start blackening, as the thin skin has a tendency to crack around the neck. We just wash the fruit, peel it and eat it anyway but try to harvest the fruit before it develops these cracks.

This year our crop finally is abundant enough that we are actually able to sell our Mexicola avocados. These avocados have a very thin skin (you can actually eat the skin). They ripen from the neck down, so at first they will be green, then the neck will blacken and soften, and finally they will blacken and soften and the skin will slightly wrinkle. Then they are ready to eat!

Satsuma salad with bacon

 

mandarin bacon salad recipe photo2My son sent me a text message the other day that said “bacon and Satsumas make a delicious breakfast”.  That got me thinking that the combo of Satsumas and bacon, that  sweet and salty duo of favorite flavors, could be a good start for a few tasty recipes. This is my first rift on that theme and tasty it is indeed.

Satsuma salad with bacon.

This recipe serves 4 as a side salad. As a main dish, it could serve 2 and would be yummy with added smoked turkey or smoked chicken for some extra protein.

Ingredients:

1 cup fresh squeezed satsuma mandarin juice (our Satsuma are so juicy you can even do this by just squeezing them in your hand, or use a citrus reamer or other juicing device).

¼ cups thinly sliced peeled shallot

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 tsp. white wine vinegar.

¼ tsp. or less salt

6 slices bacon, chopped in large pieces, cooked until crispy and drained (save the bacon grease).

8 cups greens (I used escarole) torn into pieces. Spinach, sturdy lettuce or thinly sliced kale are other options for this salad. Arugula might also be a nice addition.

2 cups mandarins (peeled, cut in half and then segmented so they are individual segments cut in half)

2 ounces Feta cheese (I like to use the Danish Piknik sheep’s milk cheese which comes in a can with brine. It will store for a long time in the refrigerator in the brine. I find mine at middle eastern or European grocery stores).

To make the dressing, boil the Satsuma juice on the stove until it is reduced to a thick syrup (down to about 1/3 cup total volume). Add the sliced shallot the last minute or two of boiling, then let it cool down. Now add the olive oil,  Dijon mustard, white wine vinegar, 1 Tablespoon of the reserved bacon grease and ¼ teaspoon or less salt (to taste) and mix well.

Put the greens in a bowl and add the mandarin pieces. Mix with the dressing. Serve into 4 bowls then top with the bacon pieces and crumbled white cheese.

mandarin bacon salad photo

Satsuma salad with bacon

To read more about our Satsuma mandarin farm, or to order our Satsuma mandarins to use in this recipe, please visit www.burgesonfamilyfarm.com.

Why we do what we do

The wind is roaring, it is pouring outside and we are wondering how many of the Satsumas left on the trees will survive this deluge. Over the past 3 days we have desperately tried to pick every ripe mandarin in our orchard prior to the storm. We had to leave many that did not meet our quality standards yet, as well as some that were ready when we just plain ran out of time. In an attempt to protect the mandarin skins from becoming like water soaked wet sponges, Adrian went back into the orchard after dark to spray the Satsumas with an organic oil spray to serve as a rain slicker for the remaining fruit.

Our garage has been taken over by the mandarins waiting to be packed and shipped. From morning to bedtime our living room is a hub of activity as we sort through Satsumas and pack them in boxes and bags and rush to the post office and local delivery sites to get them to our customers as soon as possible.

Why do we do what we do? There are many reasons including our belief in being part of a sustainable local food system, our love of being outdoors engaged in productive activity and our amazing fortune to have stumbled upon a piece of land singularly blessed with good soil, plenty of water and the right climate for growing Satsumas. And we owe thanks to Betty Iljana, one of the original Satsuma farmers in our area, who fostered our love for Newcastle mandarins years ago when Evan was a baby. Back then we would drive over to Betty’s several times in the season, buying paper bags full of perfect mandarins, usually hundreds of pounds a season. While we were there we would pick her brain for tips as to why, as Evan used to sing “Betty’s are the Best!”. Betty set the bar high for what a perfect mandarin should be, and patiently answered our rudimentary questions when we were planting our orchard.

But most of all, what keeps us going in the crazy harvest season is comments from our customers that come through email or on the phone as the Satsumas arrive at their destinations. Here are just a few that I have collected over the years, and from here on out I have made a vow to consolidate them in this post as a little inspirational list for myself and Adrian:

Your oranges are amazing!…JG

Our friend shared some of her shipment of Mandarins with us..they are the most incredible I have ever tasted!…TC

They are beyond yummy, as usual…GM

We just love your lovely mandarins….AE

I have bought Satsuma from 2 other farms but yours are simply the best!!!…KM

Got them, opened them, love them …PD

Oh my goodness!  These are by far the best Mandarins we’ve ever eaten!  Glenn picked them up last night at the bee meeting and we’ve been consuming them ever since. Thanks again for producing such a wonderful and pesticide free product.  YUMMMMMMYYYYY!!!!!!!…GM

I received them on Thursday and they are gone today.  My little girls absolutely loved
them, as well as a few guests we had over this weekend for a tamale
dinner. …VM

We are enjoying them very much…RF

I can hardly wait for your mandarins…SM

I received a box of Satsuma mandarins as a gift this week and they
are wonderful…KW

We received a box of your mandarins last year as a gift from a family member (and we’re about to receive one again this year!).  They were so delicious that we are interested in sending some as a gift as well…TG

The oranges have arrived safely and all have responded with very positive
comments.  Thanks for completing these orders for me…MR

my Dad LOVES them!!…LR

Hi Dayna, I am thrilled to get your mandarins this year.  I still wish you
are just down the street…JG

I am looking forward to those great
mandarins from your farm… J.P

You guys really have the best mandarins in the area…JG

Last year my mom sent me satsumas and a few lemons from your orchard, they were fantastic!…YA

Thank you very much for the update. My little girls are already asking when we get that bag of those delicious little oranges. :0) ..VM

Can’t wait to get my share of these Satsuma’s: we had them when we were visiting our friends and grandchildren in California over the holidays and we were hooked.  My husband who generally does not like citrus foods that much, kept eating them too…EV

The ones I tasted were sweet as could be and far superior to the ones in the grocery stores!…SO

The box with the mandarins and lemons arrived with todays parcel mail. The fruit is in perfect condition and is as flavorful as only your mandarins are.  The best I ever had Thank you…AMW

The Mandarins arrived and they are delicious…JF

Our good friends gave us a box of your indescribably yummy mandarins.  She was a little vague about how we could order some for ourselves.  I think she wants them all for herself.  I’m writing to ask that if possible you please include us as likely customers for you future harvests.  Then we could astound and frustrate our friends with mysteriously fabulous fruit just like they do…KM

Got ’em today, as did at least one of my siblings. They’re REALLY good. I’m sure you’re working hard down there, but it’s worth it! …PN

Thank you, received in great shape. They are most delicious and lovely…..DW

Your mandarins are so wonderful it’s totally worth waiting until they’re ready….AE