Satsuma harvest starts another good citrus seasonNov 9th, 2011 | By Terri Sercovich | Category: top story
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.
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.
“Usually the season kicks in about the end of October,” said Ben Becnel, a local citrus grower. “I’m selling here at my stand, and I have one store that I sell to right now.”
Early satsuma varieties are coming in now, and within two or three weeks, most of the others should be ready, according to LSU AgCenter county agent Alan 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.
Becnel said his crop is a little early this year, and he believes the trees are so loaded that it’s forcing the fruit to ripen faster.
“The goal of the grower is to keep the customer happy,” Vaughn said. “So, they pick the best fruit, sell the best fruit and make sure it’s presentable.”
In order for growers to sell satsumas, the fruit has to pass the state’s test for sweetness, Vaughn said.
“Farmers taste the fruit, and they know when the taste is right. If they wait for the color, they may miss it by up to two weeks,” Vaughn said.
Satsumas can have that dark green color but still pass the sweetness test, Becnel said. “Now the more yellow it gets, the higher the sugar.”
Paul Becnel, another Plaquemines Parish grower, said he began picking on Oct. 20.
“The crop is early, sweeter and plentiful. I think these will be the sweetest since Katrina,” Paul Becnel said.
Paul Becnel has purchased the equipment required to ship his fruit across the country. The process includes drenching, waxing and applying fungicide.
Paul Becnel sells retail, wholesale and online. He can ship to any state except California.
“We got involved with the LSU AgCenter MarketMaker program about three months ago and we’ve already had 4-5 hits,” Paul 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.
Paul 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.
Paul Becnel said he’s involved with fundraisers for schools, churches and Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in addition to his regular customers.
Story by Johnny Morgan