The fall chill of December is finally among us, and while for many this means peppermint mochas and gingerbread cookies, for Louisianans, this time marks the height of the much anticipated satsuma season.
Satsumas are cousins of mandarin oranges, but are typically more yellow in color and easier to peel. This tiny citrus fruit is seasonal during the winter months and has such a special significance throughout New Orleans and the rest of Louisiana. From farmer’s markets to campus dining halls to restaurant menus, this tasty little fruit seems to sneak its way into every part of our daily lives. You’re not a local until you have your favorite pop-up roadside satsuma vendor or know somebody with a satsuma tree in their yard.
Here are five reasons why New Orleans loves satsumas:
They are local flora here.
Satsuma trees are commonly seen throughout the New Orleans area. Rarely do the trees take height, as they are usually mistaken as tall bushes. Each tree reaps a healthy supply of oranges from late October to early February, creating a prime winter crop.
They are sold everywhere.
In New Orleans, it’s never hard to find satsumas. They are sold at higher-end chains like Whole Foods, but even as local as the side of the county road. Residents of New Orleans are known to have their trusted source for satsumas, and many opt for the roadside pop-up merchants.
They can be seen as a good luck charm.
Satsumas, while named after a former province of Japan, are seen as symbols of abundance and good fortune during the Lunar New Year. It is common to present them to friends and family as gifts in Asian cultures. Per my Ying-Ying (Chinese for grandmother), satsumas with the branch and leaves attached are luckier than others and guarantee more luck and wealth.
They are tasty.
New Orleans is known for rich, heavy food, like gumbo and jambalaya. Therefore, satsumas offer a light and sweet flavor that contrasts the flavor of typical food staples. They are easy to peel, full of vitamin-C, and make a prime healthy snack, jam, or juice.
Satsuma Cafe is named after them.
Satsuma Cafe has two locations in New Orleans, one Uptown on Maple St. and one in the Bywater on Dauphine St. The ever popular cafe pulls from the locality of satsumas and aims to provide locals with “freshly made juices, breakfast and lunch using quality, local and organic ingredients.” Satsuma Cafe has such a great brunch that it was Spoon-approved twice by Tulane students.