Q: My Satsuma tangerine tree is loaded with fruit but none of them are orange. How do I know when they are ready to pick?
A: Satsuma mandarin bears its fruit early in the year which makes it a good choice for our area, especially for the home landscape. The name Satsuma comes from a specific province in China. Since the fruit matures before we generally have any freezes we can avoid losing fruit when the winter season arrives. You have to try a few of the fruit to determine when they are ready. Satsuma fruit do not stay well on the tree, so it is best to pick them quickly once you know they have ripened. The mandarins grown in our area often mature internally before the external rind changes color – therefore most will have green rinds. This is also why people occasionally think this fruit tree is a “sweet” lime when it is actually a tangerine. Once the fruit is picked, Satsuma fruit can be stored for several days and still remain tasty. Most Satsuma citrus are used for juicing except for those of us growing them in our yard. Some Satsuma fruit can be found in specialty stores sold under the name “Emerald Green” tangerines. The fruit apparently does not ship well or hold up for long periods in a grocery store which is why we seldom see it in the produce aisle of our major grocery chains. However, it is a sweet orange, easy to peel and it is cold tolerant. These are just a few reasons why Satsuma is a perfect choice for the novice backyard citrus grower. Remember to stop fertilizing any citrus tree in Northeast Florida from October through February. When selecting a fertilizer for citrus consider using 6-6-6 or 8-8-8 as citrus will need Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium in equal amounts to produce the best fruit possible. Do not over water, plant in well-drained soil but water on a consistent basis to avoid stress or fruit split. Refer to this publication by the University of Florida on Satsuma orange. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ch116