Satsuma mandarin trees (Citrus unshiu Marc.) are among the coldest hardy citrus varieties that have sufficient fruit quality for potential commercial marketing as well as for homeowners outside the typical citrus belt in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.
The Mandarin orange or mandarin is a small citrus tree (Citrus reticulata) with fruit resembling the orange. The fruit is oblate, rather than spherical, and roughly resembles a pumpkin in shape. Mandarin oranges are usually eaten plain, or in fruit salads. Specifically, reddish orange mandarin cultivars can be marketed as tangerines, but this is not a botanical classification. The Mandarin orange tree is relatively drought tolerant.
Varieties and Characteristics
The mandarin has many names, some of which actually refer to crosses between the mandarin and other citrus fruits. Most canned mandarins are of the satsuma variety, of which there are over 200 cultivars. One of the more well-known satsuma cultivars is the “Owari”, which ripens during the late fall season in the Northern Hemisphere. The mandarin is easily peeled with the fingers, starting at the thin rind covering the depression at the top of the fruit, and can be easily split into even segments without spilling juice. This makes it convenient to eat, as one doesn’t require utensils to peel or cut the fruit.
The ‘Mr. Mac’ Satsuma
Murphy W. McEachern as County Extension Agent for Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana from 1945 to 1974 was instrumental in re-establishing the parish citrus industry of 1,000 acres following major freezes in 1952, 1957, and 1963. In cooperation with Leander H. Perez and the Plaquemines Parish Commision Council who paid 50% of the cost of every tree planted.
The fruit was marketed on roadside stands and the French Market in New Orleans. The ‘Mr Mac’ satsuma was selected as an outstanding old line Owari clone and named to recognize the work Murphy W. McEachern did in maintaining the Plaquemines Parish citrus industry in Louisiana.
“Mr Mac” as he was called by other growers and friends, conducted an outstanding Citrus Extension Educational Program for growers, and he also carried parish growers to Florida each year to participate in their annual Fl Citrus Growers Institute.