Oh, I’ve mentioned them here before, just in passing when talking about the fall bounty of the bayou. But it’s way past time to give this outstanding citrus the face time it deserves.
Meet Citrus Reticulata, better known down the bayou as a plain, old satsuma (sat-SOO-muh). Some folks who grow them in their yards just refer to them as oranges. However, the term orange does not do this fruit justice. Other folks call them “mandarines”, that goes along with another term for them “mandarin satsuma”.
About 3/4 the size of a tennis ball when ripe, these orange balls of bliss have a skin that pulls away from the meat as it ripens, making them easier to peel then their closest competition–the tangerine. The fruit can be picked in October when the green skin starts to turn to yellow; but they are best when fully tree-ripened until they to a dark orange as seen above.
Satsuma flesh ranges in taste from sweet to tart, depending on the amount of sun and the type of soil the tree is grown in. They are milder than tangerines, though, and also have less acid, making them a favorite for little children.
Although south Louisiana grows more of these than any other state (except maybe Florida), they are not a native tree. They were introduced from Japan around 1878 and adapted very well here. It is said that the name “Satsuma” is actually the name of a small town in Japan where the first trees were exported from.
These fruits were picked from a tree so laden with satsumas, the branches are touching the ground. The owners have given away 1000 fruits to the local schools and there are still plenty to be picked. If I could, I would pick them all, pack them up, and send each of you a boxful of sunshine!
The trees make a beautiful addition to the landscape with their year-round dark green leaves, and then the burst of brilliant orange in the fall. If you live along the south coast, you can plant the trees on the south side, close to the house, and make sure you cover them if a freeze is on its way. However, some ag centers say that the trees can withstand temps down to 26, but only for a short while.
The best news of all is that this little gem of a citrus tree can be grown in a 20-gallon pot on your patio and will never grow taller than 4-6 feet. The trees love about 8-10 hours of sunlight a day, but if yours gets less, it’s okay–it will just bear less fruit.
Our oldest son recently came home from the boat with this Brown’s Select Satsuma tree in a 5-gallon pot for The Captain. In years gone by, I planted four satsuma trees–something ate all the leaves, and then the saltwater flooding of 2005 finished them off. I didn’t have the heart to try again. I think I might have to adopt this tree and see if I can transplant it into a larger pot this spring and have some satsumas next year.
I’ll keep you posted and let you know how it goes!
If you haven’t had a satsuma yet, hurry and get you some because the season is just about over, cher!
Coming soon: Speckled Trout ala Bayou Woman