- Among the nearly 160 varieties of citrus available for tasting, none appeared ready to upstage the seedless Tango mandarin.
- Irradiation of bud wood has been a key to stepping up mutation processes that can lead to a new desirable variety.
- It can take 15 years to come up with a commercial variety from the time irradiation is first done.
Timing and taste
Those who attended the tasting took timing into consideration along with taste and other criteria.
Alex Del Rio, who works with Leffingwell Ag Sales Co. in Ivanhoe, Lindsay and Terra Bella, said he was looking basically for “good flavor, what can be sold fresh, sugar content, color and size. The consumer likes non-seeded products, although sometimes the seeded products taste better.”
His lips puckered as he sampled a Eustis limequat. “Sour, tangy,” he said.
A staffer at the center explained that that particular fruit had not fully ripened. “It’s not at its peak,” she said. That’s one of the challenges in staging the tasting – the variability in ripening by a given date.
Andrea Gjerde, a citrus and subtropical specialist with Entomological Services Inc. of Visalia, enjoyed a taste of the Oro Blanco grapefruit, which she said is not particularly seedy and is less likely than other citrus to be plagued by citrus thrips.
During the tasting, participants were also taken on a tour of the demonstration plots at the center where they could see some of the fruit they had tasted hanging from trees and also see fruit that wasn’t sampled.
Tracy Kahn, principal museum scientist with the Citrus Variety Collection at UC Riverside, conducted the tour with assistance from Tom Delfino, executive director of the California Citrus Nursery Society.
The two invited participants to pull fruit from trees, but told them not to cut or clip the trees or use any tools, a precaution against any spread of disease.
The demonstration block at Lindcove was started in 1994. Trees are propagated from bud wood provided by the Citrus Clonal Protection Program and are planted in blocks at the UC Riverside Citrus Variety Collection, at the Lindcove site and in Thermal at the Coachella Valley Agricultural Research Center.
At Lindcove, participants were able to see some of the cultivars recently introduced by the clonal program as well as some that have been grown commercially for nearly two decades.
Newer varieties included the Hansen mandarin developed in South Australia. It has good flavor from February to March, researchers said, but the fruit can be quite seedy.
Also on display was the Avana apireno, a selection of the Willowleaf mandarin. “Smell that smell,” Kahn said, as a powerful citrus smell wafted through the trees. “That’s the distinctive Willowleaf smell.”
Researchers say Avana apireno fruit reaches legal maturity by early December and has few seeds.
USDA 6-15-150 mandarins came out of Florida and are believed to be cold hardy.