One of Northern California’s most highly anticipated harvests begins this month, the sweetest season, as Placer County Owari Satsuma mandarins hit local markets and take center stage in a series of weekend events.
The season kicks off with the 22nd Annual Mountain Mandarin Festival in November and continues in December during Orchard Days, a two-weekend event during which families can tour the Placer County mandarin trail, participate in a series of activities and enjoy freshly picked fruit.
“Mandarin season is a true hallmark of winter in Northern California, and the Placer County region has been a leader in cultivating mandarin trees for more than 125 years,” said PlacerGROWN Executive Director Carol Arnold. “More than 40 mandarin growers are nestled among the Placer County foothills, and these events provide them with an opportunity to share the sweet fruits of their labors with visitors from all over the state.”
Taste the first fruits of the season at the Mountain Mandarin Festival on November 20-22. The festival, which takes place at the Gold Country Fairgrounds in Auburn, will feature thousands of pounds of produce from many of the area’s prominent mandarin growers. Distinctive items from more than 200 vendors include mandarin pizza, mandarin pulled pork, mandarin milkshakes, and mandarin scented lotions, soaps and candles.
“Every year, the Mandarin Festival serves as a rich and meaningful celebration of one of the region’s most recognized crops,” noted festival organizer Chef Gary Gilligan. “With contests, cooking demonstrations and live entertainment, there’s something for everyone in the family to enjoy, and proceeds benefit the scholarship fund of the Newcastle Area Business Association.”
Following Thanksgiving weekend, the season’s kick-off continues with Orchard Days, a Mountain Mandarin Growers’ Association (MMGA) event that takes place on December 5, 6, 19 and 20. Visitors can tour participating Placer County orchards and sample freshly harvested mandarins while enjoying unique mandarin-infused products such as olive oils, marinades, and honey, along with samples of Placer County wines and a variety of family-fun activities.
“Placer County Owari Satsuma mandarins have more flavor than fruit grown on the valley floor, and this year’s extended warm weather has given us a harvest earlier in the season than usual,” explained Tom Aguilar, owner of Mandarin Hill Orchards, which is one of the oldest groves in Placer County. “We will have plenty of them for the Mandarin Festival, Orchard Days and the holidays.”
Many MMGA member orchards continue to welcome visitors daily throughout mandarin season, which typically runs through February. In addition to in-person visits, growers package and send their produce across the nation and around the world. Several families commission Placer County growers to ship mandarins to United States armed forces servicemen and women in Afghanistan each year.
To sample the best of what the season has to offer, visit your local farms and markets, such as Newcastle Produce and Blue Goose, or stop by one of the year-round PlacerGROWN farmers’ markets. For more information about PlacerGROWN or PlacerGROWN farmers’ markets, visit www.placergrown.org/.