Oranges in Auburn ― now's the time

 Get your citrus just east of Sacramento

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satsuma mandarins

Thousands of 10-pound red-mesh bags of satsuma mandarins are sold at the festival, where you’ll also find other great foods and crafts.

Martin Sundberg

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Bet you didn't know that citrus grows like crazy in the foothills east of Sacramento. In fact, a commercial mandarin industry has been thriving here since the 1960s, with about 50 growers today.

The best way to get your fix of the sprightly fruit is to head to the annual Mountain Mandarin Festival, where crisp autumn weather and a bit of fall color make a beautiful backdrop for food, crafts, and mandarins by the bushel.

This is the place to stock up on fresh-off-the-tree Owari satsuma mandarins, known as "zipper fruit" because they're so easy to peel. Vendors sell everything from vintage fruit-crate labels to olives.

But mandarins take center stage, with a mandarin-themed recipe contest, mandarin shakes, even mandarin trees for sale.

"The festival has certainly taken mandarins to a new level," says Ralene Snow, whose line of citrusy items, Snow's Citrus Court, includes mandarin syrup, salad dressings, and marinades. "Plus it's just a nice way to spend a day in the country." ―David C. Becker

INFO: The 12th Annual Mountain Mandarin Festival (9-4 Nov 19-20; free; Gold Country Fairgrounds, 1273 High St., Auburn; www.mandarinfestival.com or 916/663-1918)

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