Wednesday, January 17

Citrus Crisis

Southern Californians (which now includes me) complain a lot about the weather. If you’re not within 100 mile radius of the 90201 zip code, this probably strikes you as ironic. The problem is that the weather here is always so beautiful that when it gets down to 58 degrees, the scarves and gloves come out and everyone starts grumbling about the cold. Unfortunately for many of California’s citrus farmers, the actual freezing temperatures we have experienced here lately have been truly detrimental.

At the farmers’ market this past Sunday, one farmer told us that many of her blood orange trees might not ever produce fruit because they are too young to withstand the cold. Another told us that in the nine years he has been farming, he has never seen such a prolonged cold snap. We heard several similar stories, and what struck us was how stoic these farmers were in the face of adversity. They didn’t complain or feel sorry for themselves; they simply related the depressing facts to us. Unbelievably, one farmer whose Cara Cara oranges we have mailed home to Rhode Island on many occasions was actually apologetic that his fruit wasn’t as good as last years, as if he could possibly control the weather.

When I started to express my sympathy for his misfortune, he gently rebuffed me: “Please don’t feel bad for me. This is the life of a farmer. It’s what I do.” I stopped. I didn’t know what else to say. His eyes were so sincere, his body language so sure. Instead of saying anything else, I simply tossed a few more oranges in my bag and asked him to tally me up. With a wide grin, he added, “Let me know how your family in Rhode Island likes them.” “I will,” I assured him.

Living here has allowed us to not only buy fresh produce but to also become friendly with many of the farmers. So, the concept of “buying local” resonates with us more now than ever. I can honestly say that preparing and eating the food from these wonderful people makes meals much more meaningful to us. Let’s sincerely hope that this cold weather ends soon.

Since many of the farmers told us to buy more oranges now in case their future pickings are limited, we ended up with several bags (some will stay here; some are en route to Rhode Island, as you can see).

This simple Sicilian salad is one of our favorites. I used Cara Cara oranges for this one. These super sweeties look like an ordinary naval orange on the outside, but when you slice them, they reveal a red, juicy flesh the color of a Jolly Rancher watermelon candy. Their sweetness contrasts perfectly with the salty olives and licorice flavored fennel.

Makes 4 servings
Print recipe only here.

2 large cara-cara oranges or naval oranges
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
10-12 black and green cured olives, halved (I like Kalamata and Cerignola)
A handful of fresh mint leaves
Coarse sea salt
1 Tbsp quality extra virgin olive oil*

Peel oranges, and cut into pinwheels. Arrange orange and fennel slices; drizzle with olive oil; add mint leaves and coarse salt.

*Olive Oil: My favorite olive oil is from a local olive grove, Cook and Ladder. I also like going to Italian markets where knowledgeable staff helps me with my selection. Sometimes they even offer a complimentary tasting, which itself makes the trip worthwhile.


Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Your family in Rhode Island is so lucky to get these oranges! In my local RI market, the best we get at this time of year is clementines (not a local product!).

Susan from Food Blogga said...

I know what you mean. Sometimes I can't even mention our farmers' market to my mom, as she gets too depressed. Although her visits here are primarily to spend time with Jeff and me, I think secretly she really comes for the organic mesclun table at the farmers' market.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to live somewhere where fresh produce was abundant all year round. I just have to look forward to the summer!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

I know, we're fortunate. That's one of the things Jeff and I love most about living here.

Alanna Kellogg said...

Hi Susan, Welcome to food blogga'in! You've got a wonderful start to your blog - it's easy to tell that like many of the rest of us, you're half (wholly?) obsessed with food and food blogging, already! I hope you find the same warm, welcoming food blog community that I was sooo surprised and pleased to discover, nearly two years ago for me, now, hardly a pioneer but still. Anyway, a warm welcome! AK

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Thank you. I am having a wonderful time already.

Patricia Scarpin said...

Hi, Susan!

This is my first visit to your blog and it already won my heart with this post... I'm a citrus maniac - love, love, love limes, oranges and lemons.

This salad would be perfect for me today - the weather is a bit hot here in Sao Paulo.

Regards from Brazil,

Rachael said...

Your post was very moving. Actually, aside from all of the other virtues of the book "Fast Food Nation", one thing that was quite memorable about reading it was the authors perspective on the American family farm... and how that incredible personality and spirit is disapearing.

Oh, now I feel sad. I hope CA citrus damage wasn't as bad as they are thinking.

Despite that, the salad looks very interesting

-A west coast (Arizona) girl living on the east coast (Connecticut)

Anonymous said...


You will never guess what I brought home from the market yesterday: organic blood oranges and fennel and some black and green olives!! I was planning on making an orange and fennel salad today for lunch (I hadn't planned on adding the olives but I think I'll try your recipe). The only thing I'm missing is the mint so I'll just add some fresh parsely instead since that's what I have on hand.

Susan from Food Blogga said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan from Food Blogga said...


Thank you for your kind words.

I'm curious, what types of citrus do you get in San Paulo?

Susan from Food Blogga said...


I have flipped through chapters of Fast Food Nation at Border's. After your comments,though, I think I'll pick it up at the library and finish it.

It seems like the damage to the citrus groves in CA has varied from region to region. As I'm sure you've heard on the news, most reports are saying it affected upwards of 75% of the crops. I do have one bright spot though--this morning we spoke with the farmer who I mentioned might lose her blood orange trees; she said there was a lot of lost fruit but that the majority of her trees will survive.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Fantastic! Don't you just love it when that happens?

Patricia Scarpin said...


I haven't bought grapefruit yet because it's easy to find everywhere.

But we eat a lot of oranges, here.

Limes are, to us, what lemons are to you - we use them for everything.

Lemons are not that used, but now they're becoming more common. I buy them all the time and sometimes make "caipirinha" using lemons instead of limes.