Pixie Tangerine: The Origin Myth (according to Churchill)
Churchill writes: My dad planted bacon variety avocados
in 1974; by 1979 the market for bacons had begun to
disappear as the avocado industry decided hass were
altogether a superior product, and also our orchard
had a root rot infection that was killing the trees.
So I went looking for a citrus crop that I could grow
and sell myself.
day over at Friends'
house, gossiping with Tony Thacher and idly picking
pieces of fruit out of bins and eating them, I picked
up an amazing tangerine.
I said, "what is this?"
a pixie tangerine."
you sell them?"
only have two trees, and every year by the time I'm
done selling my dancies my kids have always eaten all
of the pixies."
you had been there you would have seen the lightbulb
appear in a thought-balloon above my head. Sweet. Seedless.
Easy to peel. Kids like 'em. I bet I can sell 'em.
went out looking for budwood, had 80 trees grown, took
out some sick and sorry bacon avocados, and planted
the pixies. I got so excited that I went and had the
nursery grow another 250 trees, but my father said,
"Son, you don't know how you're going to sell that
fruit. I think you ought to wait til you know you can
sell the fruit before you plant any more trees."
So Tony Thacher took the trees off my hands, and that's
how Tony and I embarked on growing pixies commercially.
1988 we sold our first crop, to Monterey Market in Berkeley,
California. Thanks to the support of Bill Fujimoto of
Monterey Market, we developed a following for pixies
in the Bay Area, which we've been able to leverage into
nationwide sales as more Ojai growers have planted pixies
and more retailers and consumers have noticed how good
in there Lisa Brenneis and I got married. Because we
got married on March 30, our anniversary often gets
short shrift, as the pixie season is always in full
chaotic motion right about then. We spent our third
anniversary, after the serious freeze of winter 1990,
dropping partly frozen pixies into a big vat of water
outside the shed to see which ones were frozen and needed
to be thrown away and which ones we could sell. (Frozen
citrus gets air pockets, and tends to float; unfrozen
citrus lacks the air pockets and tends to sink. So all
you have to do is reach into the freezing water and
pull the unfrozen ones out
addition to tolerance of me, a lifelong enthusiasm for
really good food, and immense horticultural experience,
Lisa brings to the operation wisdom, skepticism, a long-term
planning sensibility, and really cool art direction.
we have about 1000 pixie trees; we also grow Pages,
Satsumas, Encores, Seedless Kishus, TDEs, Gold Nuggets,
as well as Chandler pummelos, oro blancos and cocktail
grapefruit. We also still grow some avocados, but the
big bet is on Pixies.