Tastes Like Christmas!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Dancy Mandarins-Bird Back 40
That's the line I heard uttered from one of my co-workers earlier this month when I handed per a portion of a freshly harvested and just peeled Dancy Mandarin. Her eyes opened wide as she proclaimed: "Tastes like Christmas!" And you know what? She was right on the money. Because the Dancy Mandarin does indeed taste like Christmas. It's just one reason why the Dancy is known as the "Christmas Tangerine."

That's the old girl, pictured to the right. And when I say "old," I am being just a tad facetious. True -- the Dancy was the first tree I ever planted in the Bird Back 40. But that was way, way, way, way back in 2007. That's right. The Dancy Mandarin officially turns eight years old this month. I found it, tucked away, in a lonely Home Depot garden section corner. It was love at first sight.

Owari Satsuma Mandarin-Bird Back 40
We've added much more since then. Take -- for example -- this tasty mandarin offering to your immediate left. That, my friends, is the Owari Satsuma. It is "allegedly" the best tasting mandarin on the planet. That's what the commercial growers are selling at the moment at all the mandarin farms scattered about Placer and Sutter Counties. You can also find them in your local grocery stores -- but don't mistake them for "Cuties" (that's a different type of mandarin called Clementine).

The Owari Satsuma is in demand for a couple of different reasons. First, it's probably the sweetest mandarin to be found anywhere. Most citrus has a sweet and sour combination. But not the Owari Satsuma. It's just sweet. That's not a bad thing -- but if you like that sour punch in your citrus -- the Owari is not your cup of tea. Another reason why it's highly desired is that it's mostly seedless. Sure -- you're going to run across one of two them in each piece of fruit. But two is better than twenty -- if you're into the seedless type of citrus.

Murcott Mandarin-Bird Back 40
Another thing the Owari Satsuma has going for it is that it can take the knockout punch of sustained freezing weather and keep right on ticking. This isn't true for many types of citrus trees. But, as it turns out, the Owari Satsuma and the Dancy can handle that icy punch and not succumb to the elements. That's a plus, as I discovered last year, when Mister Snow Miser moved into the Bird Back 40 and set up an icicle factory for the masses.

Another citrus offering to be found in the Bird Back 40 is the Murcott Mandarin. While it isn't quite as cold resistant as the Owari Satsuma or the Dancy -- it offers one big advantage. The Murcott produces tasty, delicious, mostly seedless mandarins AFTER the Owari Satsuma and Dancy have played out. That's a big plus if you enjoy picking fresh citrus from the backyard offerings. And there's nothing I like more than stepping out into the yard in the morning and falling into a deep hole the dog has dug right next to the Murcott Mandarin tree.

Dancy Mandarin, Left-Owari Satsuma Mandarin, Right
Not that I've ever done that. Stupid dog.

For some odd reason, despite the drought, this is turning out to be a record year for citrus production in California. Some Owari Satsuma growers opened their roadside stands two weeks ahead of schedule. The trees are packed with fruit. The heavy rains we've received this month have also been a blessing in disguise, as my Dancy mandarins are packed with a juicy sweetness that's been missing in previous years.

Dancy mandarins are the original "Christmas tangerine." They are the fruit that mother packed into Christmas stockings for my brother and sisters a very long time ago. We didn't get this kind of treat often as we foraged for most of our fresh fruit and citrus. But tangerines were hard to come by and not at all cheap in the late 1960's-early 1970's. They didn't last long on Christmas morning. That much I can attest too.

Christmas Day Mimosas Anyone?
This is why I always make sure that the wife that is Venus always gets two or three Dancy mandarins packed into her stocking for Christmas Day. It's a tribute to my family of the past. And then, of course, we juice those plus another 100 of them for Christmas Day mimosas featuring Spanish Cava and freshly squeezed Dancy mandarin juice.

Hey! So I started our own Christmas tradition! Something wrong with that?

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