too many words by laura lemay

Kishu Mandarins

Four years ago I ordered a Kishu mandarin orange tree online from Four Winds Growers(//, at great expense, and it showed up at my house as a tiny little stick tree in a long thin box.

Kishu mandarins are like other mandarin-style oranges — small, seedless, easy-to-peel, and tasty — but they’re only about the diameter of a quarter.

I can’t for the life of me remember why I bought the Kishu mandarin in the first place. I remember that I wanted to grow a mandarin orange tree. Those boxes of small tasty Clementine-Style (“cutie”) mandarins had become popular in supermarkets, and I buy a lot of them when they’re in season. And I think I had a friend who had mentioned finding the Kishus at a farmer’s market in SF or Berkeley and loved them. I’m always up for growing something unusual, so I took the chance on this tree.

Citrus trees do very well for me in pots on the porch. Dwarf varieties are easy to manage in pots, but they still bear heavily with regular watering and fertilizer. In case of especially cold nights I can pull them under the roof overhang or cover them to keep them from getting frost damaged or killed.

I planted the Kishu mandarin that first year in a small pot, and then a few years ago moved it to a larger pot. The first couple years I only got a few oranges. This year there are a lot.

The kishu is a good orange, but I can’t say it’s a significantly better orange than other mandarins I’ve tasted. And the small size means that, proportionally, you have to peel a lot of them to get the same amount of sweet fruit that you would with a larger mandarin.

When I was buying full-size mandarins at farmer’s markets I liked the Murcotte and Page varieties. I’ve been eating some Satsumas this month that are amazing. I probably won’t abandon the Kishu, but I might buy another tree. There’s still room on my porch.