What is in this article?:
- California growers and industry leaders cite excellent growing weather as the reason for generally sweeter and better tasting early citrus.
- A move to a newer flavor standard is supported by 95 percent of the industry.
- The real test for the new standards will come when fruit is slow to mature, and shippers are pressured to meet early demand.
Maribel Nenna, field representative for Corona-College Heights Orange and Lemon Association in Riverside, tests juice from sample navel oranges to determine if it meets the new standard for flavor. The testing procedure for early season navels remains the same. The difference this year is the formula used to calculate test results. The aim is a better tasting piece of fruit for consumers.
Nelsen said the move to a newer flavor standard is supported by 95 percent of the industry. Last year the CCM board voted unanimously to ask CDFA to adopt the “California Standard,” replacing an 8:1 minimum sugar/acid ratio standard in place since 1915. Simply raising the sugar/acid ratio was not enough. The new California maturity standard is based on research conducted by the Citrus Research Board. The new calculation — called Brim-A — is a better indicator of flavor than a simple sugar/acid ratio minimum. Brim-A measures titratable acids and soluble sugars. The tests for sugar/acid and Brim-A are the same. The difference is the formula for calculating the result.
Newer early navel varieties may more easily reach the higher early season standards. Tomlinson said Griffith Farms’ early varieties, like the Newhall Navel, taste better earlier. Griffith’s earlier varieties are grown on south-facing slopes, blooming and maturing earlier.
Leland Wong, director of marketing for Sunkist Growers, said enforcement of the new maturity standard has had no effect on the cooperative’s harvest this season.
“This is a different type of year. Different fruit matured earlier this year due to the hot summer temperatures. Cold nights the last couple weeks brought out the color,” he said.
Wong said early fruit from the Central Valley ”tasted great. We have the good fortune to have a large crop of good tasting fruit.”
He said the real test for the new standards will come when fruit is slow to mature, and shippers are pressured to meet early demand.
“We’ve been holding our breath on this. The industry has put a lot of effort into explaining and promoting the new standard to growers,” said Nelsen. “Even those who were not enthused about it said, ‘Lets try it.’”