Monday, November 4, 2013

Satsumas



If you live in North Florida and you'd like to grow citrus, your best bet is to plant a satsuma. A satsuma is a type of mandarin orange that's extremely cold tolerant and just plain tough. It's also very productive, offering copious amounts of luscious, tennis-ball-size fruit in fall.

Rob and I have four satsuma trees planted here and there around the house. They're all the Kimbrough variety, which is hardy to 16 degrees F.

On nights when temperatures threaten to dip into the 20s or below, we cover our tender young trees with old sheets. After three years you don't need to cover the whole tree anymore. You just have to wrap the graft.

Our oldest satsuma is almost five years old and quite beautiful now--dark and spreading and about 12 feet tall. It's covered in fruit this year (the other day we counted more than 200 golden orange orbs). The poor tree is so loaded that Rob had to make it some special bamboo "crutches" to help the limbs bear the weight.

Satsumas are really tasty, great for eating straight off the tree. The thick, loose skin is sometimes referred to as a "zipper skin" because it opens so effortlessly. The fruit is mild, sweet, juicy, and not at all messy to eat since it's divided into tidy, bite-sized segments that are easy to pull apart.

On Sunday we sampled our first satsumas of the season. We only picked two (one for each of us) since we felt we were probably jumping the gun a little bit. (Another week or two and they'll really be ripe.) Picking them was a big ritual and celebration, accompanied by great fanfare, and eating them was kind of like doing a wine tasting; lots of appreciating was involved, and enthusiastic attempts were made at describing the delicious but elusive flavor.

"Mine's really bright and sweet," I said. "And there's a little hint of honey!"



11 comments:

  1. Thanks for this post. I didn't know we even HAD a cold-hardy citrus. I had two Meyer Lemons last year but lost one. The remaining one was potted up and will be shoved in the greenhouse as it gets colder. Unfortunately, the greenhouse shrinks a little more each year as more and more plants are shoved inside.

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  2. I'm really intrigued by these! I've actually never heard of them before. I can't believe you have 200 of them on one tree - crazy! We can get into the single digits here in MO so I don't know if I could plant any here but I just might have to try!

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  3. Oh, I'm salivating just looking at them! Mmm! My in-laws live in FL and I love when we visit. Don't think we could pick anything like that off our trees in Maine! :) It's below 16 degrees forever in winter, so it seems. But I would love to! :)

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  4. These are the easiest to peel citrus fruit ever: the "wrapper" is an extra size larger than the contents, and thus doesn't fit very tightly. They sell them a good deal in Europe. I haven't seen a lot of them in the states in the markets. They are the sweetest citrus I've ever had when ripe, and not very acidic compared to some. I never knew they were that hardy though. I enjoy the simplicity of posts like this: it is wonderful to be excited in life by all the riches that surround us, which most people miss for lack of inhabiting the moments that make up our lives.

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  5. Western PA here, so we get Florida citrus in our grocery stores, yet I had never heard of these until now! :) Learn something new every day...they look delicious :)

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  6. These seem intriguing. Bet your getting lots of good ole vitamin C! How's the citrus industry fairing up there?

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  7. I'm wondering if these are what they call Cuties or Clementines? I can't wait for our stores to get their first shipments of Clementines. We really enjoy them...easy to peel, sweet, and no seeds. These are a very healthy snack for us.
    Balisha

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  8. Yum! Your Satsumas look wonderful. We have mandarins, but don't know what kind. I'm looking forward to trying ours when they're ready. Enjoy your Satsumas, Leslie!!

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  9. I've never had these - sound delicious though. I LOVE citrus, especially when they're easy to peel. :)

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  10. I would love to be able to grow citrus. My Meyers lemon gets hauled inside and out, depending on the time of year. I rarely get many lemons, however.

    That are you going to do with all that fruit? Do they make good marmalade? Somewhere I have directions for canning citrus wedges!

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  11. I've heard of satsumas but didn't realize they could take temperatures that low. I like the easy peelable skins the best. Some of the new varieties don't come off in big pieces . . . very annoying. Enjoy your citrus!

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