It would be safe to say that farmers and horticulturists have never grown a fruit or vegetable they didn't alter in some way or another.
The idea has always been to propagate the perfect product by blending one plant's desirable characteristics with another's, creating a superior--or at least marketable--hybrid of the two.
Case in point, the tangelo--born from someone's imaginative idea that combining a Marsh White grapefruit with a Dancy tangerine would be desirous to those fond of citrus.
Although a few grocers do stock the fruit, tangelos can be had fresh from the tree thanks to the proprietors of Tangelo Rancho in Piru.
Each February brings with it a new crop of tangelos, which ranch owner Jeanne Warren calls "a wonderfully sweet juice fruit."
For the grapefruit's part, it brings to the hybridization some tartness and greater size. "The tangelos' sweetness and color come from the tangerine," Warren said.
The tangelo is recognizable by the "bright red-orange color" of its smooth skin, she said, and its near pear-shape. Inside, the pulp is a deep red color.
The crossbreeding has also created a user-friendly citrus.
"The peel is very easy to take off," Warren said, "and the segments pull apart beautifully, especially fruit picked later in the season."
Do you find seeds bothersome? "Tangelos have very few," Warren said.
Larger than its diminutive cousin, the tangerine, tangelos can range from orange size to that of a medium grapefruit.
Although some grow quite large, Warren said, "this year they're not that big because of the cold weather conditions we've had."
And speaking of growing, Tangelo Rancho does its without the use of pesticides.
Given that tangelo is no household word, Warren estimated that "it has taken 15, 20 years to build up our customers. It's definitely a specialty fruit, but people are getting more and more acquainted with them. They're great for juicing or eating."
Tangelo Rancho--the only commercial tangelo grower in the county--also offers a variety of oranges, mandarins, tangerines and grapefruit.
Sold at the ranch's roadside stand and at Ventura Farmers Market, the tangelo crop is plentiful and will be around for some time, Warren said. "We've had them until the late fall some seasons."
The tangelos are sold in 3- and 6-pound bags.
The stand is on California 126 just east of Main Street, near the Piru Creek Bridge. Call 521-1631.
The grand opening of the weekly Camarillo Certified Farmers Market will be held March 2, providing Ventura County residents with yet another fresh produce outlet to buy the goods of area growers.
"We have a nice variety of produce," said John Willits, market chairman. "You'll find everything from persimmons to strawberries." He said a nursery will also participate and offer a selection of fresh-cut flowers and potted plants.
Although organizers hope to have 30 to 35 farmers in attendance for the opening, Willits said the Camarillo Farmers Market can accommodate up to 60 growers.
"We're still looking for anybody willing to sell their produce," he said, but certain conditions must be met. That goes for home gardeners as well.
"We have to prove ourselves as a viable farmers market, but we're confident," he said.
The market will be held 8:30 a.m. to noon each Saturday at the parking lot of the Senior Nutrition Center, 2220 Ventura Blvd., Camarillo. Musical entertainment and other festivities will greet buyers each week.
Willits said proceeds from the market will benefit the Camarillo Hospice and the Pleasant Valley Hospital Auxiliary.
Growers interested in reserving a slot can contact Willits at 484-9340 or Joyce Schroeder at 987-5243.
LOCALLY GROWNPRODUCE AND SEAFOOD
Mr. C's Produce--"They've been hard to find, but we've managed to bring in some quality oranges," owner Don Battan said. Also watch for a wide selection of olives from Porterville. Victoria Avenue and Teal Club Road, Oxnard. Call 984-2912.
Underwood Ranch--Looking for a nice salad and short on time to toss your own? Check out the ready-prepared salad mix. "It contains seven or eight different lettuces, three or four spinaches, mustard greens and more," said manager James Barker. "It's even triple-washed, ready for the dinner table." 5696 Los Angeles Ave., Somis. Call 386-4660.
Otani Izzy Fish Market--Fresh Alaskan halibut may be just the Valentine's Day dinner entree you've been looking for. Call 483-6519. 610 South A St., Oxnard.