Jim Churchill and Lisa Brenneis are proprietors of Churchill Orchard. Their motto is “We serve the fruit”.
Churchill Orchard was established in 1972 by Jim’s father, “Church” and started out with all avocados. Jim and Lisa continue to grow avocados but are best known for their twelve acres and thirteen varieties of tangerines/mandarins.
What’s the difference between a tangerine and a mandarin? According to their website: “There's a surprising amount of mystification on this topic, but here's the gospel that we adhere to at Churchill Orchard: Mandarin and tangerine are two words for the same thing, technically Citrus reticulata Blanco. They're called mandarins because they were thought to be native to China; they're called tangerines because they were thought to have come from Tangiers. They are in fact native to Southeast Asia someplace, and they did in fact come to this country from North Africa, so both origin myths are correct. There are about a zillion varieties of tangerines”.
Jim Churchill is, perhaps, best known in the valley for his Ojai Pixie tangerines. Pixies are thin-skinned and easy to peel, sweet, seedless and best of all, they will be available for purchase this March. Although he is well known, nationwide, for his tangerines, he and Lisa also grow five acres of avocados with a few plums, grapefruit and pummelos thrown into the mix.
One of the most fun things I’ve purchased at the farmers’ market this season is the Churchill Buddha Hand Citron.
The Buddha Hand is the ancestor of the lemon. As such, it not surprising that it has lemony perfume. You can’t juice it like a lemon but you can use the peel to flavor just about any recipe that calls for lemon “zest”. In addition, it is used commercially to flavor liqueurs and vermouth. I even think I saw flavored vodka at The Ojai Beverage Company that uses The Buddha Hand Citron for flavoring.
Buy Churchill citrus. It is local and it is organic. In fact, everything they grow is CCOF-certified organic. See Jim and his crew at the Ojai Certified Farmers Market every Sunday.