A hidden gem in the foothills of Northern California. That’s probably the best way to describe the mandarin groves located around Newcastle, CA. While virtually all California citrus is grown down south, residents of the Newcastle area prefer locally-grown Satsuma mandarins. What makes the Newcastle area so unique for citrus? “It’s a micro-climate here,” says Duane Lewis, owner of Newcastle Mandarin Ranch. “The trees grow on decomposed granite at a 500-800 ft. level. This type of soil is the absolute best for growing mandarins,” he added. “It results in a much better flavor and the mandarins have higher nutritional facts. The quality far exceeds what’s grown down south.” A big difference with clay is that clay soil holds more water and the trees take more water in. Decomposed granite lets the water soak through and the tree takes what it needs.
No impact from sunburn
It’s peak season at the ranch and harvest is in full swing. It starts around mid-November and continues until mid-December with product available up until Christmas. “Growing circumstances this season were pretty good,” Lewis shared. “It was not an overly hot summer, which made it a good summer for growing. There was a lot of smoke in the air, which functions as clouds.” As a result, the temperatures were lower than usual, and this year’s fruit isn’t impacted by sunburn.
High-quality side products
The hot, dry summers in Northern California sometimes negatively impact the skin of the fruit. To prevent damaged fruit from being thrown away, Newcastle Mandarin Ranch started juicing mandarins about 12 years ago and made jelly out of them. “Since then, we have expanded the line of side products.” Today, the ranch sells bbq sauces, pepper sauce, marmalade and salad dressings, but also freshly squeezed juices as well as milk shakes. All side products are professionally prepared at a nearby co-packing company in Auburn, CA. “They are all high-quality products and made from scratch,” mentioned Lewis. For some side products, like bbq sauce, only the best mandarins are used as the product includes mandarin rinds as well. Interesting fact is that it takes 13 lbs. of mandarins to make a half gallon of juice.
A selection of side products.
All mandarins stay local and are sold at two public locations. One of them is a stand along the road, the other is the ranch store, adjacent to the citrus grove. Store visitors are welcome to walk through the grove and enjoy the beautiful scenery. “About 50 percent of our mandarins are sold to the local public at our two locations. The other 50 percent of sales come from school functions and fundraiser events,” said Lewis. Schools get to purchase the mandarins at wholesale rate and sell the bags to raise money. Altogether, local schools and groups such as sport clubs sell thousands of bags of mandarins each season. “It’s my way to give back to the local community,” he finished.
View of the grove and the foothills.
Lewis’ parents started the business over 40 years ago and still have their own ranch with 1,200 trees. The citrus grove of Newcastle Mandarin Ranch counts 800 trees and Lewis’ brother also owns a mandarin ranch of about 1,800 trees in the area. Newcastle Mandarin Ranch will be juicing and making mandarin milk shakes this coming weekend for their special Orchard Days. Bring in a copy of this article and receive a free cup of juice as a treat for visiting.
For more information:
Newcastle Mandarin Ranch
3219 Hector Road
Newcastle, CA 95658