Why is my Owari Satsuma so bland?

julia42(9a)November 7, 2011

So I have a small Owari Satsuma tree that I put in the ground last spring. It set quite a bit of fruit, but I pulled most off, leaving only two. They've started turning orange, so I tried one today. It wasn't terrible or anything, but I found it to be pretty bland. It was sweet, but with very little tartness or richness of flavor. Maybe slightly dry, too. I've had many satsumas before, but I've never known the variety. I was under the impression that Owari continues to be pretty highly regarded, even with all the new varieties that are available. I've heard that Satsumas improve with age - perhaps my tree is too young. Or perhaps it was this year's drought. Or maybe I watered too much? Maybe I picked it too soon? Or too late? Does anyone have any thoughts about this? I'm pretty new to fruit growing... Thanks!

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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hello!
I'd guess it's a combination of things...drought-stress could certainly contribute. How often did you water?
Also, what are the temperatures like in Houston lately? Here, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains,
we don't harvest until later this month (and into December). I've always heard that the fruit needs the frost.

Josh

    Bookmark   November 7, 2011 at 5:51PM
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julia42(9a)

I'd say that I deep-watered about once every two weeks, except during the hottest parts of the summer when I upped the watering schedule to once a week. The tree itself is very healthy-looking and has put out plenty of new growth throughout the summer.

Temperatures are still pretty warm here, though. We had one night dip to 33, but mostly we've had highs around 80, lows around 60. Maybe I should leave the other fruit and see if a better flavor develops?

    Bookmark   November 7, 2011 at 6:25PM
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johnmerr(11)

Proly the biggest issue is that this species has a reputation of not producing particularly spectacular fruits until the tree is about 5 or 6 years old.
If your tree is healthy and growing, proly you just need to have a little patience. My Brother has 2 in Austin, 4 years old; and this year they are making lots of fruit for the first time. It's a little colder in Austin; so as Josh said, may just be the touch of frost that makes them better... for sure it helps with the color.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2011 at 7:30PM
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mrtexas(9a)

I've got 11 year old satsuma trees making mostly inferior fruit. Best satsumas fruit I've eaten were from trees planted in 1989. My navel oranges and grapefruit long ago made good fruit. Other mandarins are better but slow also.

Here is a link that might be useful: mrtexas

    Bookmark   November 7, 2011 at 9:34PM
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mrtexas(9a)

You may as well pick the fruit off for at least 5 years to let the tree grow with the crummy fruit it will produce. When they start to bear fruit the growing almost stops.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2011 at 9:37PM
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johnmerr(11)

Well, that's not very happy news, at least for a garden grower. I have similar issues with my Meyers; if you don't take off most of the fruit in the first year or two, the tree will make fruit, but not grow. That's for my field trees; but for my garden trees, that get more special care, I try to strike a balance between keeping some fruit for my reward, and putting more fertilizer to help the tree grow. Look for my "Garden versus field Meyers" posted recently on this forum to get an idea.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2011 at 9:49PM
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julia42(9a)

Hmm. That is a bit disheartening. I don't mind pulling fruit off for a few years, but five is kind of a long time to wait... Especially when, as your average suburban homeowner, there's a good chance we might not even be living here ten years from now...

MrTexas, if you had to recommend a satsuma or mandarin, which would it be?

    Bookmark   November 8, 2011 at 7:32AM
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mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)

My 5 year old container Armstrong satsuma gave me 2 wonderful fruit this year, on par with the commercial mandarins I have had. Id love to get and Owari one day. Mrtexas knows his stuff and what he has posted now and before is good information.

mike

    Bookmark   November 8, 2011 at 9:00AM
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mrtexas(9a)

Satsuma is seedless. Most other mandarins have seeds if that matter to you.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2011 at 12:34PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Nearly all the fruit I grow including citrus, figs, and stone fruit is sweeter off trees that are grown at low to moderate vigor and with a long period of moderate water deficit. Young trees are usually grown at higher vigor, more water and fertilizer. This is needed to get a tree with some size but results in those early fruits being inferior.

The reason modest water deficit gives sweeter fruit is that the tree increases osmotic potential of it's tissues by increasing sugars in order to withdraw water from dry soil. Modest water deficit also reduces cell size resulting in firmer plums and pluot. Fruit ends up smaller and sweeter.

My citrus gives sweetest fruit when the tree basically has only one growth flush per year due to less water and fertilizer.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2011 at 3:36PM
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julia42(9a)

Fruitnut, that makes sense. It seems like mostly people are telling me to have patience while the tree matures. Okay - I'll take all your advice.

MrTexas, I do like having at least one tree that's mostly seedless (which will probably remain my Owari) for my kids. Personally, me and my husband can deal with seeds, and I'll have an opening for a new tree come spring. I'm also considering a grapefruit or pummelo if you have a favorite.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2011 at 4:34PM
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mrtexas(9a)

My favorite grapefruit a both very seedy, golden grapefruit and duncan grapefruit. The advantage of golden is it is very early. Mine are sweet now and were edible a month ago. Duncan is later. The red grapefruit so popular won't be ready until at least Christmas. Golden grapefruit is available at the master gardener sales in Houston. Duncan is the gold standard for grapefruit flavor, the best I've certainly ever eaten. Duncan is harder to find although I propagate it to sell I don't know of anyone else doing it in Texas.

Here is a link that might be useful: mrtexas

    Bookmark   November 8, 2011 at 10:33PM
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mrtexas(9a)

The Texas red grapefruit are seedless and very nice in color. But I thought eating was about flavor. IMHO red grapefruit are good tasting but not the best. Give me a hard to find seedy white duncan grapefruit any time for the best flavor.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2011 at 10:37PM
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kingwood(9)

My best satsuma now is BC2. All my satsumas are young and BC2 is sweet. I pulled out my mature tree. It was @8 years old and the fruit just did not sweeten up. I have had satsumas sweet as candy that were only 3 years old. Sold the house with the plants and haven't been able to find another tree with such sweet fruit. If I had known, I would have taken the tree. My favorite grapefruits are Duncan and Ruby Red. Duncans are very sweet with traditional grapefruit flavor. Ruby reds are super sweet....my favorite. I gave my Golden grapefruit to my brother in law. Did not care for it. It has mild orange and mild grapefruit flavors. Not as good as a regular grapefruit, nor as good as a regular orange. It was a heavy bearer every year with no problems, but did not care for the fruit. I don't know what part of town you live in, but RCW Nursery normally carries the Duncan. JRN Nursery with have most all other citrus. Good luck.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2011 at 5:23PM
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julia42(9a)

Thanks for the suggestions. I was just going to say that I hadn't seen Duncan in any nurseries around here - I guess I'll have to drive up to RCW to get one if I decide on that (I'm down in Pearland). I'm hoping to make it to a citrus tasting or two this winter before I pick.

I grew up on Rio and Ruby Red grapefruit in the RGV (Rio Grande Valley), so it may be hard for me to move past the sweet pink grapefruit, but I'll try to keep an open mind if I can find the others to try. I'm hoping to make it to John Panzarella's open house in December...

    Bookmark   November 9, 2011 at 8:23PM
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