Citrus fruit are becoming sweeter and juicier with cooler temperatures, according to LSU AgCenter agent Barton Joffrion in Terrebonne Parish.
Growers in the southern part of the state have been picking for about a month now, and on those nights the temperatures drop to near freezing helps the fruit, and also helps the trees prepare for the colder months of January and February, Joffrion said.
Houma citrus grower John Rogers has been picking since early October and says the crop is good and getting better.
“We’ve been picking satsumas for about 30 days,” Rogers said. “The cool weather we’ve been having lately has really helped the fruit come along.”
Satsumas ripen and are in stores before navel oranges, Rogers said. Navels must be tested for their sucrose level and must score a 10 before they are allowed to be sold.
“We normally have them sweet and ready to go right after the first frost,” Rogers said.
Blossoms were a little later this past spring, Joffrion said. That has pushed the fruit back a few weeks and is causing the citrus to be smaller.
Rogers said not to let the small size fool you, though. The smaller satsumas are full of juice, so you will get more for your money.
Beginning in October, growers normally begin to harvest lemons, satsumas and kumquats, and from late November through early December, oranges, grapefruit and other citrus should reach the full color stage, according to LSU AgCenter agent Rene Schmit in St. Charles Parish.
Color tends to be an issue with a lot of consumers, but Alan Vaughn, LSU AgCenter agent in Plaquemine Parish, says color is not as important as most consumers think.
“Passing the Louisiana Department of Agriculture test for sweetness is the key,” Vaughn said. “Most satsumas can past the test before the greenish color turn orange.”
Vaughn said cold weather can even turn the orange color back to a green, so temperature and day length play a major role in ripeness.
Joffrion said growers are excited about the recent cold snaps because they know they prepare their trees for what’s to come, in addition to improving the sugar content of the fruit.
Rogers and other growers are in the middle of the satsuma selling season, which will be ending in late December or early January.
“The navels will be coming in by late December, and they should last until late February or early March,” Rogers said.