Seedless Kishu Tangerines and Yellow Limes!

I had the great pleasure of meeting Jim Churchill who grows the most beautiful and delicious Seedless Kishu Tangerines!

Churchill Orchard in the Ojai Valley

And coincidentally, he is located in Ojai, so of course, I visited him and his orchards while on our winter retreat last week.  He shared his story on how he came to grow the Kishus that are only available in January.  If I put my index finger and my thumb together and form a circle, a Kishu will fit between the hole- that is how small they are!

I asked him why I couldn’t find these little beauties at any of the local markets.  He explained that he only sells his at the local Farmer’s Market and ships the rest to Texas and San Francisco.  There are only five other growers in the region who grow these, and all are distributed through Churchill.

I asked how he came to grow them. He went to University of California at Riverside and asked the graduate students there what their favorite citrus was – they all said “Seedless Kishu”.  Now that’s solid marketing!

So are they Clementines, Mandarins or Tangerines?

I asked and he clarifies:

Seedless Kishus (seedless is part of the name) are tangerines/mandarins:  “tangerine” and “mandarin” are essentially two words for the same thing – named tangerines because they came from North Africa (Tangiers) and mandarin oranges because they came from China – both of which are true… citrus originated in South Asia and the first tangerines came to this country from North Africa.

< Here Jim measures the sweetness of his Seedless Kishus so he knows exactly when to harvest them! These sweet tiny gems of sweetness!

Clementines are also “mandarins” or “tangerines” — just another variety, with a number of sub-varieties. Most East Coast clementines come from Spain or North Africa; some very large operations have started growing them in California and they are marketed as “Cuties” (usually – “cuties” is a trademarked name for whatever they put in the box, which is usually one sub-variety or other of clementine, or else it’s a different variety of tangerine called a W. Murcott, all chosen because they ripen sequentially).

So Seedless Kishus are only, in a very general way, related to clementines – they’re both in the family of fruit called tangerines.

I’ve included some information below about some varieties of citrus I came across and learned about while in Ojai.  You can learn even more from the Citrus Variety Collection at the University of California at Riverside. It’s a wonderful website for a wonderful place from which we have learned a lot over the years.

Seedless Kishu: small, seedless, very easy to peel, fabulous flavor.  Children ‘get it’ immediately; adults sometimes take a few minutes. There just isn’t a better tangerine…   short season – available in January only

Owari Satsuma: most growers’ Satsumas get ripe in October or November – ours don’t even start until January and develop their fullest flavor in February.  They’re seedless and easy to peel, but too fragile to ship so if you want ours you’ll have to come to Ojai.   available January-February

Also growing:

Oro Blanco: Oh my oh my…  A hybrid between a pummelo and a mandarin.  Think of a grapefruit with the sugar built in, and no bitterness.  The best.

Celestial Golden Juice Queen (Cocktail Grapefruit):  This wonderful fruit needs a new name – it’s not a grapefruit at all – it’s another pummelo-mandarin hybrid.  Intense gold color; lots of seeds; amazing quantities of delicious, sweet juice.

I love learning this stuff and I love eating all this new citrus!

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