Hurricane Ida slammed Louisiana’s citrus crop, but it’s still possible to find fruit

This time of year, south Louisiana locavores usually begin shopping for local citrus to use in everything from brunch mimosas to sweet potato soufflé tucked in orange halves. But the lingering impacts of Hurricane Ida are going to make it harder to source those juicy naval oranges and grapefruits this fall, say agriculture experts.

Last month, the LSU AgCenter reported the loss of an estimated $584 million within the state’s collective agriculture industry due to Ida, a Category 4 storm that made landfall near Port Fouchon on Aug. 29. Louisiana citrus groves, some of which had already been damaged from Hurricane Zeta in 2020, saw significant damage from Ida’s continuing onslaught of wind and salt water intrusion, as well as from a thick layer of mud and sludge left after the storm.

“We work with three citrus farmers, and two of them are experiencing a significant loss of crops, especially naval oranges,” says Darlene Rowland, executive director of BREADA, which operates the Red Stick Farmers Market.

The good news, Rowland says, is that while naval oranges and grapefruits grown in the state’s southern citrus groves took a beating, satsumas have fared better. Expect plenty for sale at the Red Stick Farmers Market today, Saturday and throughout November from grower Jimmy Davis of Watson, who is experiencing bumper crops of satsumas this year, Rowland says. You can also find Louisiana satsumas right now in independent supermarkets across the city.

While Davis is seeing the most ever satsumas from his closely planted trees, other citrus growers haven’t been so lucky, Rowland says. Plaquemines Parish growers, L’Hoste Citrus, a certified organic grower, and Barrois Citrus, took a beating during last year’s Hurricane Zeta, and were once again pelted by Hurricane Ida this year. L’Hoste likely won’t come to the Red Stick Farmers Market at all this year, Rowland says. She anticipates Barrois will bring “extremely limited quantities” of naval oranges and grapefruits, as well as some blood oranges, lemons and smaller Louisiana Sweet oranges, which are good for snacking or juicing. Barrois will also bring satsumas later in the season, Roland says.

With commercial growers on the ropes this year, it may be time to turn to local friends and neighbors who often have an overabundance of citrus on local backyard trees. The surplus of citrus in Baton Rouge has been so significant in recent years that it led Baton Rouge Green’s City Citrus project to organize annual volunteer picking events to donate the fruit to charity. In 2020, volunteers picked more than 6,400 pounds of citrus from local trees and donated them to the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank.

The next picking event takes place on Saturday, Dec. 11, at 8 am. Register to volunteer, or register a tree that needs to be picked, here.

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