A month before Christmas, Christmas arrived. On a cold, dreary November day, at the end of a long work week, I stumbled up to my front door to find a white box with a bright design. Written on a green banner with a backdrop of oranges were the words “Franklin’s Citrus Farm.” My mood jumped from gloomy to giddy.
I grabbed the box and hurried into my kitchen, cut the binding with a sharp knife and—thinking this was an experience one should take slowly—eased the lid up. Satsumas, the prized mandarin of Franklin’s Citrus, shine like gold in a treasure chest. And, to me, they are of near equal worth. The fruit illuminates its surroundings with a yellowish glow. The orange globes pilled in the box coupled with this glow brought a smile to my tired face. A question came to me. How much does joy cost?
Another experience you should savor: the first taste. And every taste after.
I basked in the glow for a moment then decided to take a taste. Franklin’s satsumas have a tight-fitting peel, but with one quick flick of the finger, the whole peel slips easily off the fruit. I punctured the bottom of the palm-sized mandarin, ripped a narrow shred of the peel, slipped my finger under its skin and had the whole peel removed in two seconds.
Satsumas are heavier than they appear; they’re the juiciest of all mandarins. Consuming one is more of an act of drinking rather than chewing. Each segment of the fruit contains tiny sacs packed with sweet, tangy juice that shock and enliven your taste buds. Having not had a satsuma in months, I was excited for the first test. I pulled a segment off and examined it, tossed it in my mouth and closed my eyes.
This taste is indescribable. In a word, it is heavenly. A perfect balance—at first an interesting tang then a sweetness like candy—rolls across your tongue. The juice from just one segment is enough to fill your mouth and provides a refreshing sensation. It quenches a thirst you may not have known you had. It isn’t exactly a rich flavor—it’s too watery for that. But it isn’t bland either. It is a distinct, vigorous sweetness. It makes me wish I had a cup of fresh-squeezed satsuma juice. This usually results in me eating several at a time. When I taste a satsuma, my mouth, body, and brain crave more.
I don’t know what magic they work at Franklin’s. I’ve eaten a lot of citrus in my life. Maybe it’s the sandy coastal plain soil, maybe the abundant sunshine, or maybe it’s the work put into the grove there, but something special is happening outside of Statesboro. Simply put, this is the best citrus I’ve ever eaten.
Joe Franklin first planted satsuma trees on his family farm in 2010 after he discovered the fruit on a fishing trip in Louisiana the previous year.
Franklin figured if satsumas could be grown in the gulf region, they could be grown on his farm west of Savannah. After the first 200 trees thrived, Franklin continued to add trees annually. When he tasted the first edible fruit, he knew he had something unique. The farm continues to grow each year. It now contains more than 6,500 trees. Satsumas were only the beginning for Franklin.
Today, his farm produces dozens of citrus varieties including lemons, grapefruits, kishus, and other mandarins.
I feel like I am a better person when satsumas are around. Each time I walk into my kitchen and see the bright orange fruit sitting there, no matter what kind of mood I’m in, I lighten up. They are a healthy snack for me and my family. My daughter thinks they’re both delicious and fun to peel, and because I have said it to her a hundred times, she knows they’re full of vitamin C.
Beyond their welcoming glow and nutritional value, satsumas might provide you with a tinge of youthful spirit. When I say they are fun to peel, I mean it. Sometimes I make little bowls out of the peel. Using a knife to cut a circumference line around the fruit, I remove the bottom half of the peel. These bowls make great temporary containers that are fun for kids and can be filled with wax to make satsuma candles.
Satsumas inspire creative eating as well. I often find myself consuming each segment in a different way. Sometimes I carefully remove the walls of the segment to get something that looks like a canned mandarin. When you remove the segment walls, there is less chewing involved and the juice is more easily enjoyed. Sometimes I cut a slit with my teeth in one end and suck out the juice. Sometimes I bite the segment in half and squeeze the pulp into my mouth using my thumb.
Whatever your eating style, you will find satsumas to be delightful. They can be enjoyed in a number of ways beyond just eating the fruit by itself. I love to make drinks with satsuma juice. You can include it in a hot tea on a cold winter day or spice up your favorite icy adult beverage on an unseasonably warm day. Satsumas are great additions to salads, desserts, and savory dishes alike.
The fruit stays fresh for about a week if it sits out and can be kept fresh up to a month in a refrigerator. To me, they become noticeably sweeter if allowed to age a bit. When the peel shows the first sign of shriveling, the flavor of the fruit becomes richer and more candy-like. But good luck aging satsumas for sweetness. In my house, a box of the fruit doesn’t make for more than a few days.
When the satsumas are gone, it is time again to place an order with Franklin’s.
How much does joy cost? The answer: the price of a box of satsumas.
About the Author:
James Murdock is a writer and educator. Currently teaching AP Lang and American Lit in Monticello, Georgia. A recent graduate of the University of Georgia's MFA in narrative nonfiction writing program, enjoys writing about nature, agriculture, and people. Essays and poetry as well as working on a collection of essays about living in a tiny cabin in the mountains of north Georgia. Murdock is open to freelance editing and writing opportunities, as well as higher education gigs. See more on his experience and rewards on LinkedIn here: linkedin.com/jamesmurdock