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From local reports
You don’t have to drive to Florida to find citrus groves. Farmers along the southern reaches of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia are learning that satsumas and Meyer lemons can grow very well for them.
Kim Shelley of Southern Growers in Seminole County at the southwest edge of Georgia has 6,000 acres of farmland straddling the Chattahoochee River on both the Georgia and Alabama sides. The land has been a family farm for four generations. “And my three little boys are the next generation coming along,” he adds.
The bulk of the farm is devoted to growing commodity crops of soybeans, early wheat, cotton and peanuts. The farm is also home to 600 head of Black Angus cattle.
Shelley also has 127 acres in vegetable production and 62 acres in orchards. Twenty-seven of those acres are planted with satsumas. In a good year, the trees produce tens of thousands of pounds of fruit. Last year he sold 64,000 pounds of satsumas to school systems in Alabama and Georgia. He’s bringing his first satsumas to market right now.
He estimates the cold winter of 2014 cost him 75 percent of this year’s crop. He actually counts himself lucky since the plant protection inspectors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who come down to check out the trees and fruit, told him they’ve been visiting some farms with 98 percent crop loss.
Shelley sells his produce wholesale and is an approved vendor for Whole Foods Market, for example. He sells directly to the consumer at his Farmers’ Produce Market in Cumming, open Wednesday through Sunday, and at the Thursday evening Sweet Apple and Friday evening Vickery Village farmers markets.
Farmers’ Produce Market is open from the end of April through the end of November. Because of the farm’s location, he is able to open the season with strawberries, peaches and blueberries “as big as a quarter” a good two weeks before farmers around metro Atlanta will be harvesting those same crops.
This year, he won’t be selling satsumas to his wholesale customers. All of his crop will go to the local farmers markets where he plans to convert everyone to a satsuma lover. “I give away lots of samples. When you taste how sweet these satsumas are, you’ll never want an orange again,” he laughs.
Shelley says satsumas are ideally suited to the lower Georgia climate. “They won’t grow in middle or south Florida because they need so many cold hours to produce fruit. Their requirements are the same as those for blueberries. Satsumas are being (seen) more and more across south Georgia now.”
The trees are grafted onto trifoliate orange rootstock, also known as “hardy orange” for its cold tolerance. The satsumas grow to about 16 feet tall and Shelley says they can produce up to 1,000 pounds of fruit per tree.
Satsumas are in the mandarin orange family. Unlike tangerines, they are always very sweet, low acid, seedless and easy to peel. “Also unlike a tangerine, the satsuma grows with an air pocket around the fruit so the skin’s not attached to the fruit. Two pulls and it’s peeled. One reason the school systems like them so much is that even a kindergartner can peel them.”
Shelley tells his customers to store their satsumas at room temperature. They don’t need to be refrigerated, but they don’t like lots of fluctuations in temperature. A fruit bowl on the kitchen counter is fine. He claims a satsuma can last up to 60 days, but confesses they’ve never been around that long at his own house.
Steven Satterfield’s Satsuma Marmalade
Miller Union executive chef Steven Satterfield’s cookbook “Root to Leaf,” will be out in March 2015. This recipe is adapted from the new cookbook. The recipe works for all kinds of citrus from grapefruit to orange, satsuma, tangerine or Meyer lemon.
The recipe calls for juicing citrus, then measuring the juice and adding an equivalent amount of slivered citrus peel, then adding double the amount of water, and the same volume of sugar. The goal is to make a syrup with the same ratio as a simple syrup – 1 part liquid (here 2 cups juice and 2 cups water) to 1 part sugar (here 4 cups sugar). Use this formula for any citrus, alone or in combination, you have on hand.
This recipe assumes 6 satsumas will yield 2 cups juice. If your satsumas yield a different quantity, adjust quantities of peel, water and sugar accordingly.
It’s easy to remove the pulp from the satsuma halves after juicing. Use your fingers to loosen the pulp at the cut edge, then work your way around the peel, pulling out the pulp. It should come out in one piece.
2 cups water
4 cups granulated sugar
Fresh lemon juice, if needed
Slice satsumas across the middle and squeeze for juice. Measure juice. Put 2 cups juice in a very large saucepan.
Remove the pulp from the satsuma halves and cut each half into quarters. Flatten the quarters on a cutting board and slice as thin as possible across the shorter length. Measure slivered peel and add 2 cups to the juice. Discard remaining peel or save for another use.
Add water to juice and peel, and add sugar. Over medium-high heat, bring mixture to a rapid simmer. Add a pinch of salt. Remove any foam with a small ladle or wide spoon. Remove a spoonful of mixture and allow to cool. Taste the cooled mixture. If the mixture is too sweet, add lemon juice to taste.
The peels will become translucent as they cook and the liquid will become clear. Continue cooking until the liquid begins to form large bubbles. Remove from heat and allow to cool. If the mixture is too thin at this point, return to heat and simmer until mixture forms large bubbles again. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Continue cooking and testing until you reach the consistency you prefer. Do not overcook as the sugars can caramelize and scorch the fresh citrus flavor. It may take an hour or more to reach the desired consistency. Transfer to jars or other lidded container and refrigerate for up to 3 months. Makes: 2 pints
Per 1-tablespoon serving: 54 calories (percent of calories from fat, 0), trace protein, 13 grams carbohydrates, trace fiber, trace fat (no saturated fat), no cholesterol, 2 milligrams sodium.