PlacerGROWN: Something sweet’s on the horizon this month

By: Karen Killebrew
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We are so fortunate to live in a year-round fruit growing region. Just when summer fruit has become only a memory, our orchards are coloring up with persimmons and citrus. Persimmons have already hit the farmers markets, both the firm varieties such as Fuyu and the soft-ripe Hachiyas. Both are great additions to fall and winter menus. Citrus is not far behind, with the autumn nights getting cooler. In fact Gary Gilligan posted some mandarin orchard photos on his Facebook page this week, showing that the Owari Satsuma Mandarins are coloring up nicely. It would be nice if every season had a festival promoting the fruit or vegetable of the season … in fact we do pretty well in Placer County with celebrations of the tomato, eggplant, honey and of course the Farm & Barn Tour. But no other season launches quite like the mandarin season, with the Mountain Mandarin Festival being the granddaddy of all our celebrations. Just in time for the holidays, growers are monitoring their crop for sweetness, with the goal of bringing the first harvest of the season to the Mountain Mandarin Festival, to be held Nov. 19-21 at the Gold Country Fairgrounds in Auburn. The 17th annual three-day festival, which has become a regional destination on the weekend before Thanksgiving, will feature a dozen or more Placer County growers. Enthusiastic buyers will snap up thousands of the familiar, 5- and 10-pound, orange-mesh bags of the fruit for to take home and ship to friends and family. The popular concierge service means that you can buy your fruit early, then partake of all the wonders of the festival. For the pleasure of the attendees, there are three stages of live entertainment, hundreds of quality crafters and an area devoted to children’s activities. Cooking demonstrations, which of course must include mandarins as an ingredient, will feature regionally known chefs, while the popular Mandarin Recipe Contest on Sunday attracts amateur cooks. This year the AGROart Competition returns to the Mandarin Festival, where it first began 14 years ago. Join PlacerArts on Saturday, Nov. 20 for this unique celebration of Placer County Agriculture. Whether you want to enter the completion, watch the contestants, or just play in the Produce Playgarden sponsored by Whole Foods, you won’t want to miss this ultimate opportunity to play with your food. There are eight age-related entry categories for teams and individuals, including grammar school (grades 2-5) individual and team; middle school (grades 6-8) individual and team; high school (grades 9-12) individual and team and adult individual and team. The competition starts at 9 a.m., with judging for grammar and middle school at noon and for high school and adults at 2 p.m. Winners receive cash awards, with a special $150 award for best use of mandarins. For guidelines and entry forms for both the AGROart and recipe competitions, or for more information about the Mountain Mandarin Festival, visit mandarin It’s great fun for the whole family, and a great way to inaugurate the Placer County citrus season. Karen Killebrew is the president of the Board of Directors for PlacerGROWN. Contact Karen Killebrew by e-mailing karen@ or by visiting PlacerGROWN’s web site,