AUBURN, Alabama —The holiday season is a reminder to Alabama residents that Satsumas are ripe for the picking.
Alabama Cooperative Extension System regional agent James Miles said producers in south Alabama have been harvesting Satsumas for nearly four weeks. Peak harvest season comes between Thanksgiving and Christmas, making Satsumas a yummy gift or an easy grab in the grocery store.
Satsumas are a seedless variety of the mandarin orange, typically harvested during the fall and early winter. With their thin, easy-to-peel skin, Satsumas are the primary source of most canned mandarin. The fruit is also a staple in school snack programs.
Miles said Satsumas grow in the southern portion of the state in Alabama counties along the Gulf Coast. With more than 100 acres planted in Satsuma trees, Alabama ranks No. 3 nationally—behind Louisiana with 300 planted acres and California with 3,000 planted acres.
“The spring freeze was not as detrimental to the Satsuma crop as it was to other fruit crops,” Miles said. “While the fruit was slightly delayed in developing sugar content, the timing was not far off base.”
The most critical growing time for Satsumas is during the fall transition, and this year, the weather was conducive to good growth. The later varieties were 10 to 14 days later maturing than normal, but on the whole the crop seems to be on the right track.
Miles said it is important for the trees to experience small bursts of cool air, followed by a warming trend to acclimate the trees before real winter weather sets in. At this point in time, he said the trees will need more acclimation before a real freeze event sets in.
Growers sell the majority of the Alabama Satsuma crop within the state. Between school programs, on-farm sales and locally-run grocery stores, the Alabama market is full of home-grown fruit.
Miles said this may prove difficult for someone looking to enter the Alabama market. Seeking options for shipping out of state would be critical for a new grower.
Citrus Greening Still an Issue
“Citrus greening remains a major factor in our market,” Miles said. “Those looking to purchase Satsuma trees should only buy Alabama trees if at all possible.”
Photo by Brent Hofacker/shutterstock.com.