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Local Bounty: January 21

Polito Family Farms Citrus

By Caron Golden

Across the country, deep winter can mean no crops other than root vegetables. But in Southern California, among our many winter crops is citrus. And one of the farms most renown for their citrus is Valley Center’s Polito Family Farms. Operated by Bob and Mary Polito, the farm grows pesticide-free oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and tangerines, along with other produce like avocados and some greens—in all some two dozen or more varieties of fruit.

At this peak point in the season, you’ll find brilliantly red blood oranges, Oro Blanco grapefuit, Meyer lemons, Valencia oranges, and a variety of mandarins, including the lovely Clementines. In San Diego you can find Polito Family Farms at the Little Italy Mercato and Coronado farmers market.

Local Bounty: January 21

Citrus fruits from Polito Family Farms

From left: clementines, oro blanco grapefruit, blood oranges | Photos by Caron Golden


If you like “cuties” you like Clementines. These glossy little mandarins are a cross between a sweet orange and Chinese mandarin. They are juicy and sweeter than Satsumas, easy to peel, and usually seedless. In fact, they may just have the deepest and most robust flavor of all the varieties of tangerines. You’ll find them from December through April. Clearly, they’re perfect for snacking, but also make a delicious juice, which can be reduced into a sauce for chicken or fish. Or section and slice to add to a stir fry with shrimp, sauté with Brussels sprouts or other vegetables, or add to a salsa. $1.50 a pound or $4 a bag.

Blood Oranges

This exotic orange is treasured for its sweet, succulent crimson flesh. You can find them from December through March. Look for oranges with a slightly rough skin and a blush of red (although some blood oranges have no redness on the skin). They put color into a salad and chefs love to turn their juice into dramatic sauces and mixologists love to create cocktails around them. Use them for marmalade, vinaigrette and marinades, or salsa. And, of course, eat them out of hand. Keep them refrigerated if you don’t plan to use them right away. $1.50 a pound or $4 a bag

Oro Blanco Grapefruit

These larger than life “white gold” grapefruit are the result of combining pomelos and traditional grapefruit. The result is a greenish yellow fruit even the otherwise grapefruit averse would love—juicy, sweet, and only mildly tart. They’re available from January through July. Slice in half and eat for breakfast; segment and add to salads; juice and create cocktails, sauces, or desserts like a sorbet. They pair beautifully with greens, avocados, seafood, and spicy flavors. Three for $2.50

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