This is National Satsuma Day. Those juicy citrus fruits from Louisiana are at the peak of their season right now. Satsumas come originally from the old Satsuma Province, on the island of Kyushu in Japan. The tree that grows them appears to have been a mutation of a kind of orange tree. In Japan, they're called "mikans." They came to this country in 1878, and are better known as mandarins (another reference to the Far Eastern origin, although that's a Chinese word) or tangerines.
The satsumas in Southeast Louisiana — brought by Jesuit missionaries fresh from Japan — are different from those found in most other parts of America, and are close to the original Japanese import. The skins are thin, but have large oil pockets that flavor your fingers as you peel them off. As we all discover as children, the skin is very easy to remove, and the sections usually come apart without breaking open. The flavor is distinctly different from that of an orange. I find that when I make juice by mixing even a half a satsuma with four or five oranges, I can immediately notice the satsuma flavor.
Satsuma trees are hardier than oranges. Except in the areas that were totally flooded with storm surge water after Katrina, most of the satsuma crop survived the storm and have produced good crops since then.
Tangerine is an unincorporated town of about 825 people in the middle of the Florida peninsula. Its name is appropriate. It's surrounded by citrus groves in all directions. Despite that, its closeness to Orlando — 26 miles southeast — gives it a bit of suburban character. Tangerine is bordered on two sides by good-sized lakes. Because its name is so perfect, there have been a few fictional towns called Tangerine, Fla., in literature and movies. None were about the actual place. The restaurant in town is Vincent's Italian Restaurant. (No connection with the two restaurants of the same name here in New Orleans.)
minneola, n. — A variety of tangelo, crossing specific varieties of grapefruit and tangerine. Its appearance is offbeat: it has a small neck at the stem end, giving the appearance of a squat bell. One marketer of minneolas takes advantage of this and calls them honeybells. They're raised both in Florida (they're named for a Florida town) and on the West Coast.
The Old Kitchen Sage Sez
Whenever you find yourself with blemish-free oranges and a few minutes on your hands, scrape the zest off the skins and freeze it in a plastic food storage bag. Remember it when a sauce needs a little something.
Annals of Vegetable Gardening
Washington Atlee Burpee was born today in 1858. He created the world's largest seed company by developing many new varieties of vegetables and flowers that one could only grow by planting Burpee's Seeds. Is this a food name?
This is the memorial day for a patron saint of gardeners. St. Tryphon was a gooseherder in Phrygia in the third century, and a martyr.
Annals of Winemasters
Andre Tchelistcheff, the scientist who sent California winemaking on the path that led to its excellence and influence, died today in 1994 at the age of 93. He spent many years at Beaulieu Vineyards, then had a long career as a consultant for wineries all over California, especially in Napa. His innovations included everything from cold fermentation to strategies for fighting grapevine diseases.
Music to Eat at Sea By
Today in 1975, the iron ore ship Edmund Fitzgerald sank on Lake Superior. Gordon Lightfoot had a hit with a song about the disaster. The most heartbreaking lyric in it was:
"When suppertime came the old cook came on deck
Saying 'Fellows, it's too rough to feed ya."
Now that's a disaster.
Sesame Street came to television on this date in 1969 . . . Sir Tim Rice, who wrote the lyrics to Andrew Lloyd Webber's music for Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, and other musicals, was born today in 1944 . . . George Washington Cook, Union soldier and early Colorado politician, was born today in 1851 . . . English record producers Roy Thomas Baker, who produced for the Rolling Stones, The Who, and David Bowie, began his Big Record today in 1946 . . . Sounds like a food name, but isn't: George Fenneman, the great announcer for You Bet Your Life and Dragnet on both radio and television, was born today in 1919.
Words to Eat By
"And I've seen
Toasts to tangerine
Raised in every bar across the Argentine
Yes, she's got them all on the run
But her heart belongs to just one.
Her heart belongs to tangerine." — Johnny Mercer, American songwriter and singer.
Words to Drink By
"To Gasteria, the tenth Muse, who presides over the enjoyments of Taste." — Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.