- C. W. Cameron For the AJC
One of the real pleasures of cold weather is the arrival of fresh citrus. Yes, you can buy an orange or a lemon any time of the year, but if you want local citrus fresh off the tree, you need to wait for November and the months after.
Kim Jones of Bethel Oaks Farm in Monticello, Florida, grows satsumas as well as navel and Hamlin oranges, lemons, mandarins and shiranui, a large Japanese mandarin with a big neck that makes it easier to peel. Bethel Oaks Farms has 2,800 trees on their Monticello property.
“The satsumas are by far our favorite. Our grandchildren go crazy over them. They love the sweetness. They’re easy to peel and you don’t get juice all over you. That’s why the children love them, but I just think they have better flavor than a lot of the other citrus.”
Jones and his wife Angela organized “Florida Georgia Citrus” to encourage other growers north Florida and southwest Georgia to plant more citrus trees. Across north Florida and south Georgia, there are 12,000 trees farmed by associates of Florida Georgia Citrus.
For many years, citrus growing in the Southeast has been concentrated in central and south Florida. But researchers are the University of Florida and the University of Georgia have been working on breeding cold hardy citrus. “Between these new cold hardy varieties and improvements in ways to protect our trees from freezing, we are able to grow citrus further into Georgia.”
Florida Georgia Citrus buys fruit from the citrus growers in the area and then cleans and packages the fruit at the packing shed in Monticello. They also produce satsuma juice there. Some is sold fresh, then some is flash frozen to 20 degrees below zero. Some is sold to local microbreweries like Lake Tribe Brewery in Tallahassee that produces Lake Tribe Satsuma Wheat Beer. Some juice goes to a processor that turns it into jelly and syrup.
“The jelly has been a big hit. Several restaurants are using it as a condiment on their burgers, for example. The syrup is great for waffles and biscuits, or to baste chicken or fish. And the adult beverage folks are using the juice in drinks like satsu-tinis, satsu-mosas and satsuma old fashioneds.”
His fresh satsumas are available from early November into mid-December. “The fresh fruit will hold about three weeks without any refrigeration. With refrigeration, it will last 60 days if the fruit has been waxed. About 70 percent of our fruit will be sold fresh. We’ll process the rest.” Florida Georgia Citrus products are available at the Bethel Oaks Farm store open through January, or on their website, floridageorgiacitrus.com.
For those interested in growing citrus in their backyard, Jones recommends reaching out to the Cold Hardy Citrus Association and the Georgia Citrus Association. “These are great resources for people who want to grow citrus in their backyard.”
Collard Greens Salad with Satsuma Vinaigrette
This is a recipe adapted from one created for Georgia Grown by executive chef Holly Chute. We’ve cut the full recipe in half, but if you’re facing a big bunch of collard greens, you’ll want to double to the original size. The salad is delicious after a day, but those substantial collard leaves will keep the salad tasty for a few days more.
To keep it in the Georgia Grown family, Chute recommends using pecan oil. You can find it at local farmers markets and at specialty cookware stores or at the Buford Highway Farmers Market. If all else fails, use canola or sunflower seed oil.
If there’s no satsuma juice on hand, juice from tangerines or clementines will work in its place.
6 cups shredded collard greens, stems removed before shredding
1/4 cup pecan oil, divided
Kosher salt and pepper
1/2 cup slivered red onions
1/2 cup satsuma juice
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
Segments of satsuma and sunflower seeds, for garnish
In a large bowl, combine collard greens with 2 tablespoons pecan oil and kosher salt. Massage greens until they become wilted. Add onions to bowl and mix well.
Make dressing: In a separate bowl, combine remaining 2 tablespoons pecan oil, satsuma juice, vinegar and garlic. Season to taste.
Pour dressing over greens, mix well, then refrigerate several hours or overnight. Serve garnished with sunflower seeds and satsuma segments, if desired. Serves: 6
Per serving: 109 calories (percent of calories from fat, 75), 1 gram protein, 6 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 9 grams fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 8 milligrams sodium.