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Kurt Bertilson

Part of an “awesome” 2013 crop, mandarins pack trees in Sierra foothill orchards. Frost poses a potential danger to the fruit, but won’t threaten this weekend’s second annual Orchard Days celebration at farms in Penryn and Newcastle.

More Information


    Where: Sierra foothills farms

    When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; and Dec. 21 and 22

    Admission: Free


    Several mandarin growers open their orchards and farm stands to the public this weekend for a taste of this wonderful local citrus. See how mandarins grow while getting fruit direct from farmers. Most locations also offer crafts and fun activities to go with their fruit. For locations and directions, visit the website.

Mountain mandarins ‘chill’ while awaiting visitors

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013 - 2:26 pm

Local mandarin growers are keeping an eye on frosty overnight temperatures while getting ready for this weekend’s second annual Orchard Days.

With forecasts of night-time temperatures dipping into the 20s this week, many growers picked as much of their fruit as possible to make sure the precious citrus would not freeze.

“We’re picking fast and furious,” said Greg Lewis, owner of Sunset Ridge Mandarins in Newcastle. “Hopefully, we’ll get 10,000 pounds in — just in case.”

Like all citrus farmers, Lewis has been monitoring temperatures carefully. On Tuesday night, the low dipped to 28.5 degrees F, he said.

“That’s not a problem,” he added. “The threshold (for frost damage on mandarins) is 25 degrees for four hours or more; that could potentially freeze fruit on the tree. As long as we stay above 25, we’ll be OK.”

Regardless, there should be plenty of ripe fruit for this weekend’s Orchard Days. Placer County farms will be open Saturday and Sunday as well as Dec. 21 and 22.

“This crop has been awesome,” said Lewis, whose family has been growing mandarins since 1980. “It was early; we started picking two weeks before Thanksgiving. Right now, we’re just trying to keep up with demand.”

Organized by the Mountain Mandarins Growers Association, Orchard Days invites families to tour foothill farms and learn more about this popular crop. Besides great-tasting, easy-peeling mandarins, several farms will offer more enticements to visitors. For example, cookbook author Joanne Neft will sign copies of her new book, “The Art of Real Food,” at Highland Orchard, which will also host wine tasting and offer samples of mandarin-based treats. That same farm will give a free 5-pound bag of mandarins to any World War II veterans who visit Saturday.

Meanwhile, Mandarin Hill Orchards will host crafters, food vendors and face-painting. Sunset Ridge will offer a barbecued lunch and beer tasting from Loomis Basin Brewery. Colwell Thundering Herd Mandarin Ranch will feature tastings of its award-winning citrus-laced olive oils.

For directions and a complete list of participants, click on

About Appetizers

Chris Macias has served as The Sacramento Bee's Food & Wine writer since 2008. His writing adventures have ranged from the kitchen at French Laundry to helping pick 10 tons of zinfandel grapes with migrant farm workers in Lodi. Chris also judges regularly at food, wine and cocktail competitions around Northern California. His profile of a former gangbanger-turned-pastry-chef was included in Da Capo's "Best Food Writing 2012."

Read his Wine Buzz columns here
(916) 321-1253
Twitter: @chris_macias

Allen Pierleoni writes about casual lunchtime restaurants in The Sacramento Bee's weekly "Counter Culture" column. He covers a broad range of topics, including food, travel, books and authors. In addition to writing the weekly column "Between the Lines," he oversees the Sacramento Bee Book Club, in which well-known authors give free presentations to the public.

Read his Counter Culture reviews here
(916) 321-1128
Twitter: @apierleonisacbe

Blair Anthony Robertson is The Sacramento Bee's food critic.

Read his restaurant reviews here
(916) 321-1099
Twitter: @Blarob

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