Springtime mandarin season makes me think of the Full Moon Fairy. I first heard about her when my daughter came home from kindergarten and announced that a fairy would be visiting us—every full moon. Ah, another late-night visitor to add to the guest list. I was already pressed to remember to leave the gate unlatched for Mr. Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, assorted leprechauns, and now the Full Moon Fairy.
What does the fairy do? “On the full moon, I leave her a teeny-tiny note when I go to bed and she leaves me teeny-tiny presents!” It was a sweet time. The Full Moon Fairy would collect the exquisitely tiny notes—“I love you fol moon fari!”—and in the morning, little treasures like a polished agate, an acorn whistle, a new barrette, or a lovely tangerine with a sparkle of fairy dust would appear. The Full Moon Fairy doesn’t come around anymore—she’s outgrown us—but at least The FruitGuys still bring our family sweet mandarin oranges of all kinds: Pixie tangerines, Murcotts, Minneola tangelos (a tangerine crossed with a grapefruit), clementines, Gold Nuggets, and more.
Mandarins span from winter into spring, gathering their sweetness from the mild winters of California and Florida. Pixies are almost exclusively from Ojai, CA, a little Shangri-la microclimate for that variety.
Coming in an assortment of palm-sized fruits, some are characterized by easy-to-peel “zipper” skin; others have a tighter peel—more time-consuming but worth the effort. They fall easily into segments (called “carpels”). Sometimes you’ll get a teeny-tiny one—that’s from the fairy to you.
Leave mandarins on the counter if you expect to eat them within three to four days. Otherwise, refrigerate for up to two weeks. Most mandarin oranges are seedless, although some varieties contain seeds. The segments are delightful eaten on their own or in salads.
Enjoy and be fruitful!
Heidi Lewis writes about farms, bees, and fruit from her home in Sonoma County, CA. She's been with The FruitGuys since they were FruitKids.