Citrus – Miyagawa Satsuma-Mandarin
Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands
Citrus – The Earlies
There are many forms of citrus, and the fact that they readily hybridise with one another means identification can sometimes be a challenge, even to botanists. Science and agriculture have seized on this willingness to cross-polinate to breed out undesirable qualities and develop those they deem appealing. Whether it’s the lemon, lime, kumquat, satsuma, mandarin, tangerine, sour orange, sweet orange, grapefruit, citron, yuzu, pomello or bergamot, it’s thought that all common domesticated citrus fruits originate from three parents: the citron Citrus medica, the mandarin Citrus reticulata and the pummelo Citrus grandis.
Despite their association with the Mediterranean, all members of the orange family originated in China and were brought to Europe by Arab traders. The main northern hemisphere citrus season normally runs from November to June. We are always excited to see the first of our new season citrus arrive from Italy, and Sicily in particular. Expect to see Sanguinello, Moro and red-flushed Tarocco oranges arriving from Sicily in late December but there is a small crop of two citrus which arrive a little earlier and which we have for you right now in, this, the last week of September.
The Miyagawa which originated in Japan is a satsuma-mandarin cross. Their thin, smooth skin means they do not keep well on the tree so harvest time is brief and we normally have them October-December. The fruits arrive green, developing to yellow/orange within a few days. The early fruits have a pleasant sharpness, while later harvests are sweeter. If you find the early ones too sharp to simply peel and eat, their juice is a delicious alternative to lemon.
The Bergamot is thought to be a cross between a sour orange and sweet lime. It was mainly grown in Italy for the oil extracted from its rind. This is used in perfumes, tobaccos and Early Grey Tea. But its sharp juice is also delicious used in dressings, syrups and curds. The skin can be candied and the fruits make a good marmalade. Try adding a slice to a gin and tonic instead of lemon or lime. The thicker-skinned Bergamot should be with us into the New Year.