The History of Placer County Mountain Mandarins

Satsuma mandarins originated in Japan more than 700 years ago. The first recorded introduction into the United States was in Florida by George R. Hall in 1876. The name "Satsuma" is credited to the wife of a U.S. Minister to Japan, General Van Valkenburg, who sent trees home in 1878 from Satsuma, a former province on the southern tip of Kyushu Island, now called Kagoshima Prefecture.

During the period 1908-1911, approximately a million "Owari" Satsuma trees were imported from Japan and planted throughout the lower Gulf Coast states from Florida to Texas.

Satsuma mandarins have been a farming tradition for more than 125 years in the fertile soils of the Placer County foothills. Welsh settlers established the town of Penryn in the 1880s, and started planting orchards of pears, plums, peaches, oranges and mandarins.

By the mid twentieth century, Placer County became known as the fruit basket of the nation. Then a tree disease struck that killed pear trees all over the region. In just a few short days a healthy tree turned into a brown, wilted, dead tree, and there was no cure. Placer County farmers pulled up dead trees and burned them, hoping to arrest the disease.

With the pear trees gone, new crops needed to be planted. Penryn friends and farmers Frank Aguilar, Ed Pilz, and Harold Struble decided to plant more mandarin trees. Together the trio purchased a sizing machine and began supplying fresh mandarins to local consumers and grocery stores. Boxed mandarins soon became a wonderful gift enjoyed by friends and family throughout the country, and many were sent to soldiers in foreign wars.

Ruth and Herald Struble, Struble Ranch, Loomis

Today the descendants of these early mandarin growers have been joined by other families to carry on the tradition of providing tree ripened, hand picked mandarins to Placer County and beyond.

Fruit produced by Mountain Mandarin Growers' Association members ripens naturally on our trees and is picked only when completely ripe to ensure it is as sweet and fresh as possible. MMGA mandarins are easy-to-peel and provide a deliciously healthy snack for kids and adults.

Mandarin season kicks off each November with the Mountain Mandarin Festival in Auburn. In December, Mountain Mandarin Growers celebrate the harvest with Orchard Days held at participating ranches. Sample and purchase mandarins and mandarin products along with wine tasting, artists, crafters, food, animals, and lots of family fun.

This winter taste the difference for yourself. Stop by an MMGA member orchard in Penryn, Newcastle, Loomis, Lincoln or Auburn, or visit a Foothills Farmers Market.