Since I shared a few pictures of my foray into orchardry last month, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share a picture of my Grandmother’s satsuma tree. . . besides, she’d probably get me if I didn’t 😉
For those that don’t know (because I’ve been asked before several times what they are 🙂 ): Satsumas are a seedless and easy to peel mandarin orange imported to the US from Japan many, many years ago. They’re a very suitable citrus crop for Alabama as they’re known for being able to withstand lower temperatures (down to 17F degrees).
Now, when you think of citrus growing states, I’m sure Alabama is not the first one that comes to mind. Or, let’s face it, even the second or third (most likely, the two that do spring to mind first are Florida and California), but in the early 20th century, there was a flourishing citrus industry (mainly satsumas) in our state with fruit being shipped by boxcars to markets as far away as New York, Chicago, Boston, and possibly even on to Canada and England. At its peak, in 1923, there were almost a million satsuma trees planted in south Alabama alone. Is it any wonder, then, that south Alabama, along with the panhandle of Florida and over to Louisiana earned the very fitting moniker of Satsumaland? (Sounds more like a citrus themed Disney World, doesn’t it?) But it wasn’t to last – in the end, a series of devastating winter freezes virtually destroyed the entire industry. However, like with everything in life, people overcome hardships, develop new techniques, and try again. Since the early 1990s, new satsuma orchards have sprung up across south Alabama, although even now it’s still not at the same level as it was during those Satsumaland days.
Anyways, back to Grandmas’s little tree. She’s had this particular tree for a few years now, and it hasn’t produced a single satsuma in all that time. But finally this year it is! It’s an Okitsu Satsuma, known for being an early producer (they usually have ripe fruit in September – early October), so I’ll be sure to post about it when they’re ready to pick.