Monday, January 2, 2012

The Forgotten Citrus

Satsumas in a Jar
I first heard of satumas a few years ago, not by word of mouth but rather from a bottle of Abita Brewery’s Harvest Wit.  I was immediately intrigued… what was this unfamiliar, but remarkably ordinary looking, citrus fruit they were using to flavor their beer?  It became my mission to find out.

For the next 2 weeks I scoured the local purveyors of produce… to my dismay no one had even heard of the satsuma.  My Wikipedia research revealed that it was similar to the tangerine in appearance, but possessed an alluring honey-like sweetness.  If it had such a remarkable taste, why couldn’t I find it?  Why wasn’t it in demand?  Why had no one heard of it?

(for the Wikipedia article on the Satsuma please visit: )

Unfortunately, the same characteristics that give this fruit its superior taste also make it very difficult to transport.  The satsuma is one of the most cold-hardy citrus trees on the planet (following the palmetto and the kumquat), and to protect its delicate fruit the plant has developed a very loose skin that creates a vacuum-like envelope around its dark orange flesh.  This allows for better regulation at colder temperatures, which I suspect aids in the development of a sweeter taste.  But it does mean the fruit must be processed with greater care and at a greater cost. 

Cross section of a Satsuma
Additionally, there is only small area of the country that suits this delicate fruit’s demanding growing needs; along the coast of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida panhandle.  This of course means the major citrus outfits have historically abandoned it in favor of the more profitable yields they receive from southern Florida and Cali.

So it was the great capitalist conspiracy that was keeping me from this fabled fruit. 

For the next few month’s I watched the produce isles hopping to catch a glimpse of this illusive find.  But I slowly lost interest and my once feverish search waned into an obscure almost hipster-like indifference.

That is until one day I found myself within driving distance of Abita Springs, LA (the home of the legendary Abita Brewery!).  Given my almost obsessive appreciation for beer, I find it VERY difficult to pass on an opportunity to visit a new brewery.  Not surprisingly, I was soon waiting to be seated at the brewpub.  After an enjoyable meal and a few new beers I wandered across the street to a small farmer’s stand.

*Southern Etiquette*
For anyone not from the South, these stands can be an un-parralled treasure trove of culinary goodies and should you see one during the summer and fall you are obliged to stop immediately!  The farmers, and often their families, who work these stands are unendingly hospitable and will often ply you with free samples.  These dedicated and proud custodians of the land are some of the most knowledgeable foodies you will ever meet, and a conversation with one of them is always a rewarding experience. 

To my delight the exterior of the stand was festooned with bags of satsumas!  I had to buy three large bags immediately.  For the next several weeks I enjoyed my fill of these delicious delicacies, which is pretty surprising since I normally don’t enjoy the texture of citrus fruits. 

So when I saw a small bin of satsumas in my local grocery store the other day, I had to buy a few.  While they weren’t as sweet as those first satsumas I enjoyed, it is refreshing to see that this once forgotten fruit is making a small but respectable comeback.

Satsumas for Sale in a Huntsville Grocery Store (I had to take a picture)
Eat good food.  Drink good beer.  And above all, stay classy!

1 comment:

  1. thanks for the information,this information really helped me , I really appreciate it


Thanks for your comments!