Webb, AL - While driving through Webb, you’ll what resembles a lemon orchard. If you look a little closer, you’ll focus in on a small fruit with a big potential in the Wiregrass.
“A satsuma is really a mandarin orange grown locally. It is sweet. It is easy to peel, and it has hardly any seeds,” said Dallas Hartzog.
Hartzog had a long career as a peanut specialist for the Alabama Cooperative System. He planted his first satsuma trees back in 2002. He’s expecting a yield of $46,000 pounds on his five hundred trees.
“Satsumas are a lot like pecans. They'll make a real heavy crop one year. Then, they'll make a lesser crop the following year. This is our lesser crop. We have about half of what we had on these trees last year ,” said Hartzog.
Satsumas are not a new crop. A century ago, it was a thriving industry in Alabama, but several very cold winters wiped out the orchards.
Now, they're making a comeback, but experts at the Wiregrass Research and Extension Center issue this warning.
“If it gets in the single digits we may really get hurt. If we can keep them alive they have a potential here,” said Larry Wells, Director of the Wiregrass Research and Extension Center. “We see it as an opportunity for some people. That's what we're here for. To look at the ups and downs and disadvantages, but we've seen some pretty good upside to it so far.”
The satsuma already peels easily isn't even ripe yet. Hartzog expects to harvest in about five weeks, and when they do they expect the citrus to sell quickly.
“They're a little tart today, but they're almost ready to eat. In five weeks, as one of my friends said they'll be like eating candy,” he said.
Hartzog is hopeful to give kids access to nature's candy. He's already talking with local schools leaders about getting a portion of his crop in lunchrooms.
You can purchase satsumas from Hartzog on November 17th. He'll be selling them right off the porch of his farmhouse at 1633 Otis Buie Road in Webb.