Satsuma harvest a start to citrus season

Even though it’s early in the citrus season, producers say they have had a good growing season and expect an above-average crop this year, according to LSU AgCenter county agent Alan Vaughn.

In Plaquemines Parish, where the largest amount of citrus is grown, early varieties of satsumas are ripening, but growers say cooler nights and a little rain are needed.

In St. Mary Parish, Landry’s Citrus Farm is open 7-days-a-week offering pick-your-own satsumas from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. They cost 50 cents per pound.

Early satsuma varieties are coming in now, and within two or three weeks, most of the others should be ready, according to Vaughn.

“It’s never really about the calendar when it comes to sweetness though, it’s more about the nighttime temperature which colors them up, and the color increases the desire for satsumas,” Vaughn said.

Satsumas can have that dark green color but still pass the sweetness test, Paul Becnel, a Plaquemines Parish grower, said. “Now the more yellow it gets, the higher the sugar.”

Becnel said he began picking on Oct. 20.

“The crop is early, sweeter and plentiful. I think these will be the sweetest since Katrina,” Becnel said.

He has purchased the equipment required to ship his fruit across the country. The process includes drenching, waxing and applying fungicide.

Becnel sells retail, wholesale and online. He can ship to any state accept California.

“We got involved with the LSU AgCenter MarketMaker program about three months ago and we’ve already had 4-5 hits,” Becnel said. “Not so much about the fruit, but questions about how to care for the trees. So it’s been a good tool for us.”

MarketMaker is an Internet-based program that provides sellers of food products — especially small and medium-sized operations — an efficient means of communicating product availability to potential buyers.

Becnel hopes to use it to sell fruit, but after the harvest he plans to use it to sell trees.

“We have satsumas and navels as our biggest sellers, but we have from 15 to 18 different varieties in production, and I have about 30 varieties of fruit trees including limes, grapefruits, etc.,” he said.

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