The following story was written by Heinen’s partner Liz Luby of 365Barrington.
Citrus season gives Heinen’s reason to celebrate the farmers who work year-round to grow the freshest, most vibrant produce. Our Shasta Gold tangerines, for example, come straight from Phillips family farm in Ivanhoe, California. We chatted with fourth generation grower, Doug Phillips to learn what the harvest and flavors are like, surrounded by views of the stunning Sierra Nevadas. His story makes our love for citrus season that much sweeter.
Who Grows Heinen’s Shasta Gold Tangerines?
I love the views of nature on our farm where we grow Heinen’s Shasta Gold tangerines as well as the entire growing process, from start to finish. Watching the different stages of the fruit growing cycle is like magic to me. My name is Doug Phillips, and I grow Shasta Gold tangerines. My home is Phillips Farms in Ivanhoe, California.
Our 4th generation family farm started in the early 1970’s and we’ve always had a flair for the extraordinary! We’ve focused on the cultivation of specialty crops including, but not limited to, hybrid varieties of citrus, tree fruit, kiwi, cherry plums, red kiwi and Shasta Gold tangerines.
Our family has a strong love and admiration for the great outdoors, so farming is the perfect industry for us. The views of the Sierra Nevadas from any part of our farms are tough to beat.
Phillips Farms is 600 acres in total, made up of many different varieties and specialty crops. My favorite sight is the Sierra Nevadas after some snow on a nice clear day. My favorite smell is the fragrance of the citrus blooms. My favorite sounds are the diversity of birds and other wildlife that echo through the ranch.
For me, the best memories from our farm are watching a new variety start as an idea and turn into an unbelievable piece of fruit we can share with consumers.
What is a Shasta Gold Tangerine?
The Shasta Gold is a larger-than-average tangerine. It is an extremely juicy and extra sweet piece of fruit with an acidity that balances the sweetness and gives a rich overall flavor.
How are Shasta Gold Tangerines Grown and Harvested?
During our harvest, crews of hard-working harvesters enter the fields with clippers in hand and sacks around their waists. Using clippers to cut the stem helps prevent stem pulls and open cuts in the fruit while harvesting. The clipped fruit goes into the harvester’s waist sacks. When the sacks are full, the fruit is placed into large bins that can hold up to 800 lbs. of fruit. The bins are placed throughout the rows of the fields and when the bins are full, they are retrieved by a forklift and placed on a flatbed truck, ready to be delivered to the packing house.
Harvesting is determined by the maturity of the fruit. Frequent cuttings and testing of the fruit help to determine when the fruit is at peak flavor and eating qualities. The best place to store a piece of citrus is on the tree. Fruit is harvested as needed to ensure freshness and quality for the end consumer.
Cool, clear days make for the best harvest. Previous rain or fog will leave excess moisture on the fruit, as well as in the rows of the field, which makes it difficult for harvest crews to operate. Our area has seen less rain than in years past, which helps for harvest conditions.
During the harvest, fruit is taken to the packing house where it makes its way down the packing line. Each piece is first washed and waxed to preserve freshness, shelf life and eating quality. Soft rollers take the fruit down the packing line to the sizer, which is a machine equipped with multiple cameras. The sizer will take photos of each passing piece of fruit and determine if the quality and condition is sufficient for the consumer. After making its way through the sizer, the fruit is placed on the grading table, where it is hand-packed into its shipping cases. The individuals at the grading table also serve as another level of quality assurance to guarantee a high quality fruit.
Between growing practices and packing house activities there are many steps the fruit must go through to make its way to the end consumer, all of which are vital to ensuring the best product.
As a grower, we do not cut corners. We take every step of the growing process, every single detail, very seriously. This includes new food safety measures that help ensure a safe and high-quality product for those enjoying our fruit.
What are the Best Ways to Enjoy Shasta Gold Tangerines?
The number one recipe in my book, my personal favorite, is to just peel and eat them out of hand. The eating quality is great just as it is! My second favorite way to enjoy a “Gold” is to juice it. The flavor and high juice content make it a great option for juicing. Shasta Golds also taste great in any salad thanks to the rich and acidic flavor they provide.
Next time you visit your local Heinen’s, stop by the Produce Department and grab a Shasta Gold tangerine. With the care and passion that Doug Phillips and his team of experts put into each piece of fruit, you will not be disappointed!