by Guest Essayist Ed Cullen. Ed’s a commentator on National Public Radio’s "All Things Considered" and feature writer and columnist for the Baton Rouge Advocate. Listen to more of Ed’s essays on the NPR site. Ed sent me this essay about the citrus Satsuma and I couldn’t resist pairing it with the previous post, about growing fruit trees. Susan
The knock on the door one afternoon signaled the opening session of the Satsuma Society, a collection of friends, acquaintances, utter strangers, walkers, runners, neighborhood children and garbage men drawn each fall to our front yard citrus tree.
The pilgrimage starts with children on the street who, thirsty, hungry or just people who know the importance of good diet, are attracted by the dangling, bright orange Satsumas that decorate branches hanging near the street.
Once the children harvest the lowest mandarin oranges, the next wave, taller pilgrims, move up to the higher branches.
A couple of years ago, I was sure the harvest was over when the remaining fruit was a good 10 feet off the ground.
I was working in another part of the yard when I looked up to see a garbage collector waving from his perch high on his truck.
First, he pointed to the Satsuma tree. Then, he pointed to his mouth. I waved my approval, and the truck began backing down the street. The garbage men got most of what was left of that year’s crop.
The other day, our caller was a woman who takes care of a wheelchair bound neighbor in her 20s. They’d been talking about the Satsumas since the small, tart oranges began turning color this year.
The young woman is blind, but her caretaker had described the Satsumas to her. When I peeled one of the pieces of fruit for her, the young woman said, “Oh, I smell them.”
They left my curbside orchard with a bag of Satsuma and some Meyer lemons.
This accidental tree has given me more pleasure than anything else in my garden. This tree that should have never borne fruit has been my introduction to neighbors and passersby I wouldn’t have known otherwise.
The tree is an accidental because it began as a seed from a Satsuma that came from the supermarket. The tree grew from a seed I buried in a pot of dirt and forgot. Later, I transplanted the seedling that sprouted into the spot where a big tree grows today.
My wife and I are careful to get our harvest early for the juice that goes into Satsuma ice cream. I manage to down another couple of dozen as I work in the garden.
The fruit ripens in the fall, in time for Thanksgiving and is around when it’s time to stuff Christmas stockings.
At our house, fruit in the children’s stockings was a tradition begun by our parents whose own parents had put fruit in stockings for Christmases long ago.
The annual gathering of the Satsuma Society in our front yard reminds me that people may still find pleasure, even joy, in something as simple as a piece of fruit hanging, tantalizingly, from a tree branch over a city street.
Photo credit: Edible Landscaping.