Mirlitons & Louisiana Citrus

Karen Cambre, Sharpe, Kenneth W.  |  5/9/2018 4:14:44 PM

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News article for October 23, 2017

Vegetable pears, also known at mirlitons, are a popular vegetable grown in the south. They produce their main crop of fruit in September and October and continue until frost.

Mirlitions are a member of the cucurbit family, which includes all the gourds, cucumbers, squash and zucchini. They are a vining plant the produces lots of fruit that has a flavor much like a squash. They are used for stuffing, in dressings, pickled, in soups and casseroles to name a few.

You can get a few fruit in the spring but flowering and fruit set is initiated by days that have 12 hours of daylight or more.

Just like all cucurbits, mirlitons have separate male and female flowers on the same vine. Bees are needed to pollinate flowers. Once pollination occurs, it takes 25 -30 days for the fruit to reach maturity and then they are ready for harvest. It is not unusual to have 100 fruits on a single mature vine.

Although vines will be killed back by frost, they are perennial and will come back next year if you protect the roots from freezing. Add a thick layer of mulch once vines are killed back.

You can use fruit that are produced this fall to plant next spring. Leave fruit on the vine until they are fully mature, which is when the fruit will have a hard flesh that is not easily punctured. You want to harvest those seed fruit before they begin to sprout. Next, store them in thin porous paper such as tissue paper and put them in a box that will breathe.

You get your best results if stored where temperatures do not fall below 45◦F or rise above 60◦F. The best storage temperature would be 50-55◦F. I have heard of people storing them under their bed or in a closet with some success.

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Louisiana Citrus are getting ripe. Early satsuma varieties such as Louisiana Early and St. Ann can be harvested from early September to mid-October, but the main satsuma harvest is from mid-October through November.

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Owari is the most widely grown satsuma variety in Louisiana. It is the most cold hardy satsuma variety and produces small to medium sized high quality fruit that are seedless. Owari will typically be ready to harvest starting the first or second week in November. It can hold fruit on the tree to be harvested into December.

Brown Select is a satsuma variety that was developed in Louisiana and is said to mature about 2 weeks prior to Owari and usually is ready to harvest starting in mid-October.

Satsuma’s can be harvested once the color starts to change from green to yellow. The color does not have to be orange for them to be ripe and orange color is not a good harvest indicator. Growers have the sugar content measured and that will tell them when to harvest. Youdo not have that equipment so just taste a few. Taste is a personal preference, some people like tart fruit and some like their fruit sweeter. Find what you like by tasting and then enjoy.

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Meyers lemons are harvested on color and are ripe once they turn yellow, starting in mid-October and can stay on the tree into December.

Navel oranges turn a deep orange color when they are ready for harvest. That usually occurs in late November and December.

If you were short on citrus fruit this year, you are in the majority. It is a small crop locally and seems to be the result of negative environmental influences.

For more information on these or related topics contact Kenny at 225-686-3020 or visit our website at www.lsuagcenter.com/livingston.

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