The Satsuma!

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

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The Satsuma! — 25 Comments

  1. PLEASE don’t send any my way! I’ve got them coming out of my ears. I brought some to church this morning to give away.
    I need to bring a few in to the Extension Service or to a horticulturist to look at. Some of them look pathetic (brownish), and the peel isn’t as thick as normal. I’m hoping it was caused by the drought conditions this year. It got watered this Summer, maybe just not enough. Oh well, the “meat” looks good, and they TASTE great.

    • I was reading how they don’t ship well unless you wrap each one in bubble wrap. A farm that ships them says the ones on bottom will be ruined from the boxes being tossed around in transit. Hmmm . . . . . would love to trade though!

  2. Takes a lot to make me cry but your getting close.

    Remember the $2 ones have seeds and the $3 don’t.

    Not looking good for bayou or four this year.

    Not even sure how the blood sugar would like them.

    Had some at local store last year $1.25 a piece.

  3. I had to go researching – I eat as many Clementines as I can when they’re available. I thought maybe they were the same, but they’re not.

    If the Satsuma’s anything like a good Clementine, you’ve got some great fruit on your hands! Enjoy!

    • Oh, Linda, you slay me with your doubt. As I said, Clementines are their closest competition, but I’ll take a Satsuma any day. Many a convert hath the satsuma made, my dear : )

  4. My husband and some of the grandkids are the citrus lovers. I can’t even stand to peel an orange, clementine or anything with the scent of orange. They look beautiful though and I do love tangerine juice in moderation but, no oranges.

  5. Since for no reason I am up I will post at 3 am I have a friend that is afraid of orange food. Why I do not know maybe trapped in a pumpkin as baby or Cinderella coach ran over her….

  6. On a even less important side note, blu has picked up a satsuma colored le creuset cast iron enameled pot a bit smaller than my red lodge. Lot of wear and finish missing but probably won’t kill me.

  7. I am originally from New Orleans and love satsumas!! I moved to Mississippi and decided to plant a satsuma tree last year in my yard. My soil is a mixture of red mud and rock. I honestly thought that I would not be able to grow satsumas. However, by early spring my tree started budding and It is early November and I have 19 bright orange satsumas!! I picked one today and the skin came off exposing the fruit. The satsuma was sweet and delicious! I would like to store some in the refrigerator around Thanksgiving. Should I cut them off the stem or would that hurt the tree? Pulling them off would require immediate consumption.

    • Hi Joan and welcome to this bayou blog. I’m no expert on how to store fresh satsumas, but I do know they keep well after picking or they could not be sold in the grocery store. Honestly, you could leave them on the tree until you are ready to use them. Maybe pick them just a couple days before Thanksgiving and keep them in the frig. Cutting the stem won’t really hurt the tree, but it’s really not necessary either! And congrats on having such a green thumb and taking part of La. with you to Miss.! BW

  8. I recently lost my mother she had a tree my brother gave her when I was fourteen I believe I’m twenty seven now in all the years she had it it never produced fruit we assumed it was ruined but not long after burying her I discovered it had produced fruit they are green right now but I’m hopeful they’ll ripen and if they do I want to put one on her grave cause she loved them anyway when I showed daddy he said that the tree may be creating a mate is this true or should I get another tree to be safe?

    • Emily, I’m so sorry for your loss of your mother. My mother also loved Satsumas and has been gone 24 years now. I’m not a satsuma expert, so place a quick call to your local LSU Ag. Extension Agent and ask him/her if you need another tree. I don’t think there are male and female trees, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have two trees, would it? Best of luck to you, and thanks for writing. BW

  9. Cutting the fruit is the best way to harvest if you don’t the shelf life is cut to afire days while cut fruit is still saleable for more than a month . To ship fruit box no more than three layers deep .we transport 1000 lbs every two weeks from central Florida to east Tennessee with every little loss. 1/2 tomato boxes.

    • Hi John! I don’t know about soil but the longer they stay on the tree, the sweeter the fruit. Plus not picking until after some sustained cooler temps also helps!

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