California Winter Garden Tour

I love winter vegetables, but we have seldom managed to grow a good winter garden . The challenge of a winter garden is that you should start thinking about planting winter vegetables in August, when you are drowning in tomatoes and other summer produce, and the days are so hot you cannot imagine ever desiring a hot meal of hearty winter greens. That, combined with the last days of summer vacation for Adrian (who is a retired  schoolteacher) seemed to prevent us from ever getting it together enough to plant a winter garden. Finally, this year, with Adrian’s recent retirement, he has had the time to really enjoy the garden and plant and tend to it year round. We have been harvesting the bounty of these plantings in the past few weeks, and sharing meals with our son who is home on leave from the U.S. Coast Guard. He spent 8 months in the arctic ocean on the polar icebreaker Healy, eating mostly frozen and canned vegetables and fruit so our fresh salads and home grown fruits and vegetables have been met with rave reviews. The timing was perfect.

I thought I would give you a little garden tour. We have had good weather for a winter garden, as the days were sunny and clear.  There was very little rain, so we did water much more than usual.  I took these photos a few days ago, before a cold front and rain storm came in. Most of the produce seems to have survived the weather,  but we did harvest all of the caulilower except one of the heads before the freeze. The one we left looks like it is ruined from the cold. However all the other vegetables seem to be holding up okay, and we did have a great salad last night from the greens we picked yesterday during a break in the rain storms.

Broccoli raab is a new favorite vegetable in our family.  I cook it the same way that I cook chard and other greens. . If you want to make a main dish out of it, saute some onion and spicy turkey Italian sausage in olive oil, then scoop in the par-boiled broccoli raab and saute it for a few minutes. Finally add cooked pasta and stir it up well and serve. This has become one of our favorite quick entrees.

Broccoli Raab

Unfortunately, we did not harvest some of the broccoli raab in time, and it flowered. However, we left it in the garden as the bees were going crazy over it. The bees seemed to be very active this winter due to the warm weather, but there are only a few plants flowering right now.

Broccoli Raab with bee

Mesclun salad mixes contain a variety of lettuces and spicy greens such as mustard and arugula. They have a bitter bite due to the mustard and arugula, which can be an acquired taste. Mesclun mixes are good in salads containing fruit, nuts and cheeses to balance the bitterness. The greens can be cut over and over again and they will grow back.

Mesclun salad mix

Little gem lettuce is another household favorite. It is crisp, yet tender with a buttery mild flavor.  It is good served it in a simple salad with a mild dressing such as green goddess, or as an alternative to romaine in a caesar salad.

Little Gem Lettuce

Kale is a very nutritious vegetable that can be added to soups, stews and pasta dishes.Lacunato “dinosaur” Kale

Cauliflower can be roasted in the oven using the same method as roasted Brussels sprouts.  It can then be served hot or cold.


Raw broccoli makes a great southern style salad with mayonnaise, bacon and raisins. Broccoli is also great roasted with olive oil in the oven, or sauteed in the same manner as broccoli raab, chard and other greens.


Peas, onions, shallots and garlic are planted in the fall for a spring harvest.

English peas (Will be harvested in the late spring)

Shallots (will be harvested in the late spring)

Garlic (will be harvested in spring)

Another interesting experiment that has worked out well is a bacon avocado tree which we planted about 3 years ago. Bacon is a fairly frost tolerant variety. We got 6 avocados from our little tree this year! I love bacon avocados in a salad with little gem lettuce and a creamy green goddess dressing.

Bacon Avocado

And of course we continue to harvest our citrus which we also sell from our little farm.

Our Owari Satsuma mandarins get sweeter after a mild freeze. They are at their sweetest right now, at over 13 percent sugar measured with a brix refractometer.  They skins of ripe Satsumas are very thin and fragile however, and may not hold up well to this long period of wet weather we have entered.

Owari Satsuma Mandarins

Oro Blanco pommelos are incredibly sweet. They are sometimes huge, but a lot of the large size is due to the thick skin. Inside, they are usually the size of a grapefruit but much sweeter and juicier. They are eaten like a grapefruit.

Oro Blanco Pommelo

Meyer lemons are a sweet lemon and tend to be more frost tolerant than other lemon varieties.

Meyer Lemon

Key limes are small, very tart, with a pronounced lime flavor. They have small seeds. The famous key lime pie is easy to make and delicious.

Key Lime

Bearss limes are called bartender’s limes. They are very juicy, with no seeds. They are ready to harvest when they are green, but will turn yellow as they continue to ripen and become more sweet. They are fabulous in lime cocktails such as margaritas. You might want to try a mandarin margarita, made with Satsuma mandarin juice and Bearss lime juice.

Bearss Lime (bartenders lime)

We have 3 varieties of blood oranges: Moro, Sanguinella and Tarocco.

Blood oranges

Come back often for more recipe ideas using this beautiful winter produce.

© 2015. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

The Satsuma Mandarin Harvest

It has been awhile since I updated this blog, and I feel I owe my readers an explanation. In addition to working as a Registered Dietitian, I am also a farmer.  My guess is you have realized by now that we raise much of our own fruits and vegetables, and my goal on this site is to share with you some of the things I have learned while growing and harvesting and cooking my own food over the years.

However, we actually also make money at farming, certainly not a lot, but enough to make it more than a hobby. There is one crop that “pays the bills” around this place, and that is the Satsuma Mandarin crop. Our Owari Satsuma Mandarins are a source of pride for Adrian and myself. They are the focus of our farming efforts throughout the year, and this time of year the Satsumas take over our lives.

This is the link to the website where we sell our Satsuma mandarins over the holiday season:

In a short period of time between December and January we pack and ship hundreds of boxes of Satsumas throughout the United States. We also sell them locally to our faithful customers who come back year after year for their holiday and New Years treats. They come back to our farm every year because they know they can count on us to sell them the very sweetest, most delicious mandarins we can possibly grow. This year the harvest was late, but the mandarins are finally absolutely delicious, and we will sell no mandarin before it’s time!

When the Owari Satsuma Mandarin trees are fully loaded with a ripe crop, it is sometimes amazing how much fruit a little tree can hold. It is not uncommon to get up to 300 pounds of fruit from one tree. However, other trees may be taking a year off and have no fruit at all!

A fully loaded Satsuma Mandarin tree ready to harvest

Adrian and I usually pick all of the fruit ourselves because we are so particular about which fruit we will pick. We test a sample fruit from each tree with a refractometer, which is a tool that measures the sugar content of the fruit, and will not pick the the tree until the sample fruit reaches an acceptable amount of sugar (at least 11 percent and usually 12-14 percent). We also will taste the fruit and make sure it tastes sweet to us. Finally we examine every fruit to make sure it has no obvious green tinge to the skin, and then clip each fruit by hand and place it in the picking bag.

Harvesting Satusma Mandarins one at a time with hand clippers

Once we have picked the mandarins, we store them for a very brief period of time on trays while they are waiting to be packed. The trays have plenty of openings to allow good air circulation around the fruit. They are usually stored in a cool area such as the garage or our covered porch.

Trays of Satsuma Mandarins waiting to be packed

Usually within 24 hours we carefully pack the Satsumas into bags or boxes. Again, we have no employees and do all of the work ourselves, to assure that our customers receive the highest quality product. Within 1-2 days the boxes or bags of mandarins are on their way to our customers in the mail or are waiting to be picked up.

A box of Burgeson Family Farm Satsuma Mandarins ready to be shipped you know where I have been the past few weeks. We are over 1/2 way finished with the harvest, and I will be back with more frequent posts once we finish. If you are interested in trying our delicious Satsuma Mandarins visit our web site for more information on ordering.

© 2015. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.