Satsuma Grower Enjoying Bumper Crop - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Satsuma Grower Enjoying Bumper Crop

"Everything has been really a test for me. I didn't think it was really going to work. I did not think this many trees would still be alive from the day I began," said Glen Merritt, as he gave a tour of his satsuma grove.

Merritt planted his first satsuma trees in 1999. He's now got around 400.

"Started to try growing blueberry bushes and they didn't take very well. So at the same time I planted satsuma trees and they just exploded."

2007 has been an excellent year. His trees are bursting with fruit, ready to pick.

"You've got to cut them with a pair of cutters. Because they're so tender. If you pick them without it, you can twist it off and pull it off, but if you just reach up there and pull, it comes off the top like that. And that's no good. Because it'll rot twice as fast. So, you have to take a pair of cutters and cut them," he said, as he harvested a ripe fruit from a tree loaded with satsumas.

It's been a learning process for this satsuma farmer. The biggest threat to the crop isn't disease or insects, it's Mother Nature.

"Nothing but cold. Cold is the worst one of course. 'Cause everybody's been wiped out by cold," he said.

When the temperature drops below 32, he turns on the irrigation. Sprayers at the base of each tree produce a blanket of ice that protects them from freezing.

"You get a coat of ice on there and they don't get any colder than 32 or so and it doesn't hurt the tree," he explained.

Glenn Merritt and his family sell many of the satsumas from the front porch. That is, those that actually make it out of the grove.

"I eat so many, by the end of the day I'm sick!" he said, laughing.

Many South Mississippians will indulge in the sweet tasting citrus this season. Glenn Merritt is happy to grow the holiday treats.

Satsumas were imported to America from Asia. They're named after a former province in Japan, where the fruit has been grown for centuries.

By Steve Phillips

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