Citrus time in Orange County
It’s that time of year again. Citrus time.
John Heard has been growing his own citrus since 1985 and even what has been labeled as the worst summer many Orange County residents have ever known hasn’t stopped him.
While the Satsumas have been affected by the heat, Heard will still have Washington Navel Oranges and Red Ruby Grapefruit to sell at the Orange County Farmer’s Market in the parking lot of Big Lots.
“I’ve got a watering system,” Heard said. “Artificial watering isn’t as good as mother nature. The lack of moisture and the heat has dried [the Satsumas] out. They don’t have any juice in them.”
Heard explained that he’s gotten a few good Satsumas, but they are few and far between.
“You can’t tell if it’s bad until you peel it,” he said. “I can’t take the chance of selling some fruit that’s going to turn out bad.”
It has been said that oranges and grapefruit grown in Orange County, Texas are the best tasting fruit around and will beat out any of the citrus sold at the local grocery stories.
“One thing that I can contribute that to is that I can pick my fruit on Friday and [the buyers] can eat it on Saturday,” Heard said. “I can leave that fruit on the tree until it is absolutely mature, then it’s picked and you can eat within a day or two.”
When grocery stores order fruit from outside the area, the fruit has to be picked before it is ripe so that it will be ready to eat when it’s put on the shelf.
“The minute you pick that orange, everything shuts down, it’s stops,” Heard said. “If it’s mature, then it’s good. If it’s not mature, it’s not going to have as good of a flavor. It’s not going to be as sweet.”
Heard explained that it’s natural to have some un-sweet fruit, but he won’t call it sour. He says it’s just “not to your liking.” He credits the quality of the fruit to the weather conditions in this region and the soil in Orange County because of the good acid levels in it.
“We’ve got a good climate here. We don’t have to worry about the cold weather a while lot.”
If the weather during the winter is severe, Heard drape bed sheets over the trees and in them to the branches using clothes pins.
Heard admitted that one good freeze is necessary to make the fruit a little sweeter.
Many weren’t prepared for this hot, dry summer, but as stated earlier, Heard was able to save most of his crop.
Growing citrus is a year around job for Heard as he does most of the preparations and maintaining in the spring and summer. He does the feeding and grooming during the bulk of the year.
“It’s a fall/winter crop,” Heard said. “I generally start selling the navel oranges in late-October, early November. The grapefruit will come in mid-November and I’ve sold grapefruit plum into February.”
Be sure to check out the Orange County Farmer’s Market this week on Wednesday from 4 to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 6:30 to 10 a.m. Heard will be selling his fruit at the market. Unfortunately, this is the last week of the Farmer’s Market this season.
For more information on Heard and his citrus, please call 409-886-4125 or 409-988-5231.