IN SEARCH OF A SAMOAN ORANGE
(One of a series of articles about growing fruit trees
in Samoa, written by Digby Gotts and published in the 'Samoa Observer'
between December 2000 and April 2001)
Over that past few weeks of March there has been a steady increase in
the number of locally grown sweet oranges in the Fugalei fruit market.
The oranges stay green even when ripe, because it rarely gets cold and
dry enough in Samoa for the orange colour to emerge. Ripeness can be judged
by gently squeezing the fruit. You should be able to dent the skin and
it should spring back to shape. The vibrant sweet flavour is fantastic
compared to the insipid and often overripe imported fruit.
There are many different types of oranges, given names to identify them
like Kona (from Hawaii), Late Valencia (from Spain), Rarotonga ( from
guess where), and so on. Their seeds (if they have any) very rarely grow
up to produce good fruit, so to keep the good quality these varieties
must be grown from buds cut from the parent. The bud is placed into the
growing part of a seedling orange or lemon where it is often able to keep
growing. However the budded growth has to be protected for the rest of
its life from shoots growing from the rootstock, or they will take over,
killing the bud and bringing the plant back to its original type.
These varieties of orange can be grown in Samoa but there are many problems
with disease and there is a nightmare with the fruit piercing moth destroying
most of the fruit as it ripens. These trees have to be pruned regularly
to keep them open and clean and they need lots of fertilizer in spite
of the rich soils. So they can be grown, but not necessarily well and
there might be a better way.
There is a type of orange tree that grows readily in Samoa and is found
particularly in drier areas. The oranges are small, with a thick skin
that makes them more resistant to the fruit-piercing moth. There is some
logic to selectively growing these fruits as they are more suited to living
in Samoa than the better known, (to palagi), varieties that have many
fungal problems. The fruit project has some local seedlings growing at
Atele Horticulture Centre, but would like to know of other good quality
trees around the islands. If any readers know of a particularly good seedling
orange tree, the fruit project team would be very interested in collecting
some buds from that tree in order to grow more plants identical to the
We could then run a competition to select the best seedling orange in
Samoa and give a prize for the best Samoan name to give that orange.