Have you ever tasted an Ojai Pixie Tangerine? Well, if you get the opportunity, please do give it a try. This type of California fruit hails from my hometown of Ojai, California.
Did you know that there are hundreds of orange varieties, each possessing their own unique, defining characteristics? You’ve got mandarin oranges, blood oranges, tangerines, clementines, cara cara oranges, and many more. While these are all different types of fruits, they are all a part of the same family. In addition, you’ll find many brands that represent various citrus fruits, such as Smiles, Halos, Cuties, Delights, and Sweeties. One citrus fruit that I have a particular attachment to is the Ojai Pixie. If you ever get a chance to try Ojai Pixies (April is Ojai Pixie Month), you must give them a try! These bright, sweet-tart citrus fruits are true treasures and symbolize local growing traditions.
What are Ojai Pixies?
Ojai Pixies are a type of tangerine fruit. They come from the Ojai Valley of California, where I live. In fact, I have two 25-year old Ojai Pixie trees growing in my small orchard. The main distinction between a tangerine and an orange is the size. Tangerines do not grow as big as oranges. Ojai Pixie Tangerines are small with thin smooth skin, making them easy to peel. The fruit has a vibrant orange color giving the fruit a juicy and sweet flavor with a hint of tartness. In addition, Ojai Pixies have a crisp, crunchy texture that makes them a delight to bite into. Another interesting fact: Ojai Pixies are seedless.
Ojai Pixie is a hybrid of pollination of an F1 hybrid, called a Cincy, which means seed parent. However, no one knows what the other pollination parent is. Development and testing of the tangerines were conducted in the 1950s at the University of California Riverside. For decades, UCR plant breeders planted various Pixies in cooperation with growers around the state to see how they would grow under different conditions. They found that with Pixies being quite sensitive to microclimates, this tangerine grew best in the Ojai valley.
Ojai Pixies take 11 to 15 months to ripen, so they are on the trees during winter and ripen in spring. Ojai Pixies are only in season from March to May—with Ojai Pixie Month celebrated in April. This limited availability and unique taste makes them highly sought after. You can find them at farmers’ markets, specialty, grocery stores, and online retailers. Sunkist has jumped on board, adding the Ojai Pixies to their citrus collection. It is now the fourth addition to their seasonal tangerine distribution, along with Minneola, Orlando, and Fairchild Tangerines. This is huge as they offer them in many markets, so you can now get them outside California even. Go to the Sunkist website to see if they are available in a location near you. And, if you really want to enjoy this California fruit, make your way to Ojai in the late winter through spring to find them in supermarkets and farmers markets.
What are the Health Benefits of this California Fruit?
Ojai Pixies, like all oranges, have many nutritional benefits. Ojai Pixies contain vitamin C, antioxidants, fiber, and other nutrients. Vitamin C provides good immune system support, and antioxidants help reduce inflammation and prevent chronic conditions like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Fiber helps enhance digestive health and reduce the risk of other digestive issues. Furthermore, Pixies cause increased citrate levels in urine, which can help protect against kidney stones.
Wondering how to enjoy your Ojai Pixies? While I love them best eaten simply out of hand, they are also delicious in a variety of recipes.
Top 5 Ways to Use Ojai Pixies
1. Breakfast with Pixies
Upgrade your breakfast favorites with Ojai Pixies. Pixies are great flavor enhancers and are sure to take your breakfast to the next level. Use them in breakfast recipes, including porridge bowls, oatmeal bakes, and baked goods, like these Vegan Dark Chocolate Orange Waffles.
2. Blend into Smoothies
A great addition to your next smoothie, simply swap oranges or mandarins in your smoothie recipe for Pixies, such as this Pomegranate Mandarin Smoothie. Better yet, just toss one into any smoothie, from green smoothies to berry smoothies.
3. Toss into Salads
Ojai Pixie’s color, texture, and citrus taste can make for a refreshing vegetable, grain, pulse, or fruit salad. Not only are they great as toppings, but you can also make a citrus vinaigrette by whisking Pixie juice, olive oil, cumin, and salt and pepper. Add Pixies to this recipe for Swiss Chard Salad with Oranges and Citrus Vinaigrette.
4. Delectable Deserts
Fruits are such a simple way to make desserts divine. You can add Pixies to cakes, bars, cookies, pies, and more, starting with this recipe for Ojai Pixie Vegan Cheesecake Cups.
5. Savory Dishes
Add Ojai Pixies to your next savory entrée, such as marinated tofu kebabs, pasta dishes, power bowls, and stir-fries, such as my Orange-Peanut Tempeh with Brown rice. The flavor and aroma of the Pixies are sure to boost your meal.
Written by Nikki Harrison, dietetic intern and Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN
Photos by Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN
For more guides on how to use plant foods, check out the following: