Tuesday, November 13, 2018

8 Chocolate-Orange Recipes That Celebrate this Perfect Flavor Combination

Have you ever had an orangette? It’s a delicious little candy—a sugared orange peel coated in luscious chocolate.

There’s a reason this classic French treat has been around for generations. Putting chocolate and orange together just works. Is it the way the acidity of the fresh orange plays off the richness of the chocolate? We’re not sure, but the combination is a classic.

Chocolate and orange are also a traditional flavor choice for holiday desserts and treats. As you may know, some families still enjoy putting oranges in the toe of stockings, a tradition that goes back to the time when oranges were very expensive. But others now give “chocolate oranges”—an “orange” made out of orange-flavored chocolate! Yum.

Are you a chocolate lover who also happens to adore fresh Florida oranges? We’ve got a delectable list of recipe possibilities on this theme, from the super-simple to the delightfully elaborate. Try some out, and savor this exotic yet time-honored combination today.

Chocolate-Covered Orange Slices
It doesn’t get much simpler than this—and this treat is pretty healthy too! It’s mostly fruit, with just a bit of delectable chocolate. Still, we think you’ll find it feels decadent. To make these, you just melt chocolate with coconut oil (that helps provide a hard coating) dip the oranges in, and wait.

Chocolate-Orange Cheesecake
The creator of this cheesecake notes that she was inspired by the holiday “chocolate oranges” mentioned in the introduction to this blog. This cheesecake looks absolutely luscious.

Chocolate-Orange Babka Wreath
I actually prefer my desserts a little on the “less sweet” side—which is why treats like babka are absolutely perfect for me. This particular chocolate and orange recipe is involved and elaborate…we won’t lie. But look at the beautiful results.

Chocolate Orange Truffles
Did you know that it’s really easy to make high-end truffles at home? Now that I have armed you with this possible dangerous information, go ahead and make these orange-chocolate babies, and see if you can bring yourself to give them as gifts.

Orange Chocolate Mousse
Chocolate mousse is one of those recipes that impresses everyone who doesn’t know how easy it is to make. This version is made especially elegant by the addition of orange.

Incredible chocolate cake recipe and photo courtesy of Jonathan Stiers.

Chocolate-Orange Cake
For some people, cake is the best dessert, and chocolate cake is the ultimate. If you’re one of these people, may I suggest this twist on an old favorite?

Chocolate-Orange Martini
Some cocktails are definitely dessert—and this is one of those. It’s a decadent combination of chocolate and orange liqueurs, vodka, and fresh orange juice. Don’t forget to garnish with a fresh wedge of Florida orange.

Finally, orangettes! These aren’t as easy as orange slices dipped in chocolate—but they last much longer, and make a really beautiful and impressive gift. They’re actually pretty frugal to make, too. To make orangette, you slice and boil orange rind, simmer them in sugar water, roll the orange rinds in sugar, then dip the ends in melted chocolate.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

These Quirky Citrus Collectibles Can be Worth Thousands

The University of Florida hosts a quirky and amazing event once a year called Collectors’ Day. Avid collectors of all stripes take over the natural history museum to show off their special treasures to the public. It’s pretty fascinating. With my children in tow, I’ve marveled at hundreds of spatulas, a horde of Pez dispensers, and my personal favorite, an array of stereopticons, accompanied by boxes and boxes of antique cards.

At last year’s Collector’s Day, one booth I especially enjoyed was the one featuring a beautiful assortment of antique citrus reamers. I loved the shimmering rainbow of glass these came in. My favorites were the ones that looked like strange little clowns. (Not the scary kind of clowns.)

You surely know what a citrus reamer is, right? Some have a handle, while many sit atop a saucer and cup, and they feature a roughly conical ribbed spire. To use a reamer, you halve an orange, lime or lemon, and rotate it on the cone to extract the fruit’s juice. Some also have a clever way to remove or catch seeds.

Reamers are a very old-fashioned way to juice citrus fruit, but for my money, they still work pretty well! Invented over 200 years ago in Europe after the discovery that oranges, limes, and lemons prevent scurvy, these devices have changed over time. They started out as basic wooden implements, but soon evolved into pretty and sometimes extravagant little items.

According to historians, citrus reamers were especially fashionable during the Gold Rush of the 1920s in California. During this period in history, they were popular in bars, where they were used to extract the juice from citrus used in cocktails. Supposedly, the rather heavy devices not only served as décor, but could also stand in for a bouncer on occasion. It seems they’re heavy enough to clonk an unruly customer over the head with.

There are actually many collectors of these functional and sometimes beautiful items. The National Reamers Collectors Association even holds conventions where people gather to buy, sell, trade and talk about reamers.

Image from https://athomearkansas.com/article/main-squeeze/
They come in almost every color of the rainbow. The most valuable ones, of course, are the more unusual hues, like swirled, fluorescent green, opalescent, or my personal favorite, inky black. Many look like people or animals. They also come in the shape of oranges themselves.

Citrus reamers also helped increase the popularity of orange juice. Back before this refreshing beverage was a common one, Sunkist brands ran a “Drink an Orange” marketing campaign offering free citrus reamers to customers who saved their orange wrappers. In a funny way, it seems that orange juicers helped create orange juice.

Today, many people who enjoy fresh juice turn to faster electric juicers or more powerful manual models instead. However, the classic citrus reamer has been around for hundreds of years for a reason. If you’d like to use one to juice your own oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, or other citrus, you can find many interesting vintage reamers on eBay.


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Thursday, October 11, 2018

4 Easy Science Projects Using Oranges

If you have older children in school, you may have recently had to shepherd them through the process of creating a science fair project. This process can be stressful for parents and kids alike. (“The caterpillars are ALL dead!” “Why didn’t you label this graph?” “Where are all the glue sticks??”) By the end of the process, though, hopefully, something has been learned!

Meanwhile, if there are younger kids in your home (or if grandkids come to visit!) you may enjoy doing much smaller science experiments with them from time to time. I know my own children used to beg to play with “science kits” we had bought. These were fun. But I often felt like I had shelled out big money for what was really just a few dollars of ingredients and some instructions, plus my household materials.

Simple Projects for Pennies

Fortunately, these days, it’s really easy to find tons of fun and simple science experiments online that can be done for pennies. Many require only the most basic materials, like vinegar, baking soda and dish soap.

In fact, you can do a science experiment with something as simple as an orange! Of course, if you’re anything like us, you might not want to surrender one of our juicy, delicious navels or tangerines to science. It just seems a bit….wrong.

However, you could always use one of those anemic grocery store oranges. Also, a few of these let you eat the fruit first, or afterwards (don’t worry—no toxic chemicals involved).
Want to learn with citrus? Check out these fun and fruity experiments.

Oranges Go Swimming—Or Do They?

In this experiment in buoyancy, kids try to predict whether peeled and unpeeled oranges are going to sink or float in a bowl of water. Of course, the answer is that the buoyant, unpeeled orange will float (due to the air pockets in the skin) while the peeled orange will sink. This may seem fairly predictable to adults, but I remember the game of “Sink or Float?” entertaining my preschooler for quite some time.

How To: Orange Buoyancy Science Experiment

How Much Water is in an Orange?

One of the reasons that oranges are so good for us is that they are highly hydrating. Just how much water is in an orange, though? You can find out (roughly) with this simple experiment. You’ll slice and weigh a fresh orange, dry it out and weigh the dried slices, and do some simple math. Hot tip: You can dry your oranges faster in the oven.

How To: Orange Water Volume

Orange Battery

In this experiment, you use a nice, juicy orange, a copper nail, and a galvanized zinc nail to make an LED light glow! What makes this work is the acidity in the fruit and the dissimilar metals. By the way, this experiment will work better with a nice, fresh orange than an old and tired one.

How To: How to Make Electricity Using an Orange

Popping a Balloon with an Orange Peel

Here’s one that definitely allows you to eat the orange—bonus. In this very simple demonstration, you simply blow up a balloon, take a fresh orange peel, and squeeze the orange peel onto the balloon so that some of the peel oil sprays out onto the balloon. If the balloon is made out of rubber, it should instantly pop. This is because of the powerfully fragrant molecule that gives oranges their fresh smell. It weakens the latex in balloons!

How To: Warning: Never Eat an Orange by a Balloon!

Is there any end to what we can do with an orange? If this article has you feeling hungry or just curious, head over to our store for some sweet, fresh Florida citrus.

Photo credits: 
Water bowl” by Aditi Jain (CC-BY-SA)
Mandarin Orange Battery” by G43 (CC-BY-SA)

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

8 Salads Featuring Florida Citrus That You’ve Got to Try

Do you love salad? My family does, to my great satisfaction. The key, I discovered, is to serve it in a big, wide, shallow bowl (so all the “goodies” don’t fall to the bottom) and to include plenty of delicious extras, like nuts, cheese, meat, hard boiled eggs, croutons, and definitely fresh fruit.

One of the most delicious things you can add to salads to make them especially appealing is fruit. As is often said, we “eat with the eyes,” and the bright colors of fruit really contrast beautifully with greens. Adding fruit also ups the nutritional impact of a salad, of course, pumping up the vitamin and fiber content. In this post, we’re going to concentrate on the many absolutely wonderful salads that feature fresh citrus.

Citrus-based salads are great to have in your repertoire in winter when other fresh fruit tend to be unavailable, or are often are looking a bit sad. They can brighten up your holiday table or just enliven an average January dinner with their fresh flavors. But they can also take you into spring and cool off the early days of summer. (Of course, a main dish salad is especially wonderful when the weather is hot and you really don’t feel like standing over a hot stove!)

Try one of these delicious, beautiful, and nutritious salads featuring oranges, grapefruit, or tangerines today, and enjoy the bright lift and sweet, juicy flavor these fresh Florida citrus bring to your table.

Main Dish Florida Citrus Salads

1. It may be a bit of a stretch to call this Honey Grilled Chicken with Citrus Salad a salad, since there are no greens—but it certainly looks delicious, and it does feature chicken in an orange juice-rosemary marinade, grilled and served up with a fruit salad made of a variety of fresh oranges, grapefruits, dates, and pistachios. Yum!

2. Here’s a salad that definitely eats like a meal—this Spicy Shrimp and Citrus Salad showcases sautéed spicy shrimp and Florida orange and grapefruit segments atop fresh greens, with a grapefruit vinaigrette. I can imagine this being great with some fresh baguette and creamy butter.

3. Need another easy, but delicious main-dish salad? This Chicken Orange Kale Salad takes a short cut by using rotisserie chicken, combined with raspberries, feta, red onions, pecans, sliced fresh oranges, and kale massaged with a vinaigrette.

4. Looking for a hearty vegetarian main dish salad? How about this Lentil Citrus Salad with Goat Cheese? Lentils in a simple dressing are topped with roasted beets, sliced fresh oranges, crumbled goat cheese, and chopped parsley for a unique dish that packs a lot of nutritional value.

Side Dish Florida Citrus Salads

5. Here’s a unique and healthy winter salad featuring fresh supremed ruby red grapefruit on a bed of arugula, dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, with shaved Parmesan on top. This would be really bright and refreshing in the doldrums of winter.

6. This Crisp Fennel and Apple Salad with Tangerine Vinaigrette is crunchy, light, and beautiful with bright tangerine sections contrasting with butter lettuce and light green fennel.

7. Or, for a heartier grain-based, but gluten-free side that would be great at the winter holidays, try this wild rice salad that features pecans and a medley of dried cranberries, dried apricots, and tangerine sections. This one can be made ahead.

8. I bet kids would love this pretty and sweet spinach and fruit salad topped with orange sections, raspberries, blackberries, and cheese that is served with a balsamic vinaigrette.

Looking for more delicious salads featuring fresh Florida oranges, tangerines, and grapefruit? Check out the Eating Clean with Citrus board on the Florida Fruit Shipper Pinterest page

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Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Surprising Art of Florida Orange Crate Labels

Image courtesy of the Jerry Chicone Jr. Florida Citrus Label Collection at the University of Florida
What do mermaids, pelicans, cowboys, owls, azaleas, and pirates have in common? Well?? 

If you’re stumped, we don’t blame you. The answer is that all of these things were once depicted on citrus crate labels attached to boxes of fresh Florida oranges.

Image courtesy of the Jerry Chicone Jr. Florida Citrus Label Collection at the University of Florida

f you’ve ever worked in a commercial kitchen, you may have seen some of the art that is “descended” from the tradition of produce crate labels. Large boxes of carrots, cabbage, and the like still sometimes feature branded mascots or fancy fonts meant to distinguish a company brand. But these leftovers really aren’t much like the elaborate and beautiful citrus crate labels that collectors now cherish. Let’s take a look back at the history of a practical idea that eventually became folk art and an important part of Florida’s agricultural history.

How the Labels Came to Be

Florida, of course, started growing oranges (and other citrus) hundreds of years ago, back in the 1600s. By the 1700s, we were shipping fruit to other colonies, and the industry only grew from there. However, it was hard for growers to “brand” their fruit such that buyers could know one grove or seller from another. Naturally, they wanted a way to help buyers remember their particular oranges, grapefruit, or tangerines.

California growers were actually the ones to come up with the idea of placing brightly colored paper labels on the wooden crates used to pack and ship fruit and vegetables. But Florida orange growers quickly caught on. These labels bore the names and logos of the growers, and soon became an obvious way for growers to distinguish themselves through a memorable image. The labels also served a practical function, with the background color denoting the grade of the fruit inside. Blue stood for grade A, red was grade B, and yellow or green was mixed grade.

Image courtesy of the Jerry Chicone Jr. Florida Citrus Label Collection at the University of Florida
Local and national artists found work designing eye-catching labels, some more tasteful than others. The colors are vibrant and luscious; the lithographic printing process used 16 colors and was able to depict a rich range. Many orange crate labels have a distinctly Florida feel, featuring palm trees, tropical foliage and flowers, alligators, wading birds, beach scenes, and the like—along with oranges and other citrus fruit, of course. Frequently an attempt was made to depict a carefree “Florida lifestyle”-- miles of orange groves, endless sunshine, beautiful sunsets, and so on. (Unfortunately, you will also occasionally encounter offensive racial stereotypes.)

End of an Era

This system flourished from the 1870s up to about the second world war, when the wood and metal used to make the packing crates became too valuable to use for fruit shipping and the industry switched over to printed cardboard. Though a few packers held on, by the late ‘50s, citrus crate labels had disappeared.
Image courtesy of the Jerry Chicone Jr. Florida Citrus Label Collection at the University of Florida

Today, we recognize that these labels represent a key part of Florida’s history, both because of our long history of growing oranges and other citrus and because of their unique artistic value. The University of Florida recently acquired over 3000 citrus crate labels from a private collector, Jerry Chiccone. Digital versions of the labels can be searched and viewed online at the Jerry Chiccone Jr. Florida Citrus Label Collection

Love the look of these labels? Want to enjoy gazing up at the glory of fresh, ripe Florida oranges, tangerine, and grapefruit depicted in art, every day, all year round? (We happen to understand.) You can easily find prints quite inexpensively--$15 and up. If you want the originals, it all depends on the type, subject, and condition. I found some on the web for as little as $5-15, though they can get up to $50 or more. Still, they’re an easily affordable collectible. Enjoy these fun artifacts from Florida’s citrus history.


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Thursday, March 8, 2018

FAQs about Choosing, Eating, and Juicing Oranges

Here at Florida Fruit Shippers, we get asked certain questions about our delicious oranges and citrus time and time again. We thought it would be fun and helpful to compile them into one FAQ. Have a juicy day!

You can figure out if an orange is ripe through the smell (sweet and fragrant) and feel (no soft spots and heavy for its size).

How can you tell if an orange is ripe and sweet?

Unlike many other types of fruit, oranges and other citrus do NOT continue to ripen after they are picked. In other words, they’d better be ripe when you buy them, because no further progress is going to occur! Fortunately, though, citrus is rarely sold significantly underripe. Some minor green color on the rind is not usually very significant and is probably more about the fruit having been exposed to warm weather. (In fact, did you know that in some parts of the world, oranges rarely turn “orange” at all?)

If you want to check on ripeness, though, smell and feel the fruit. It should be fairly soft (without having any overly soft spots) and have a sweet, fragrant aroma. An orange at its peak will be heavy for its size. A light, airy-feeling fruit is probably dry and past its peak.

Citrus isn't as perishable as some other fruits; it will keep in the fridge for 2-3 weeks

How long does citrus keep?

Citrus can be stored at room temperature for about 3-5 days (sometimes longer, depending). They will keep in the fridge for 2-3 weeks and sometimes more. One of the nice things about oranges, grapefruits, and tangerines is that they’re not nearly as perishable as some other fruits.

When is citrus season?

Many people tend to associate citrus with summer, maybe because of its refreshing flavor and the types of recipes we tend to make with it. However, citrus is more properly a cool-season crop grown in warmer climates, such as Florida. At Florida Fruit Shippers, we harvest our tangerines, oranges, and grapefruit from October through April, with the bulk coming ripe in the winter. 

Although Navel oranges are the most popular eating orange, there are plenty of delicious eating oranges.

What are the best eating oranges?

This is certainly a very hotly debated topic, but the most popular eating orange is the Navel, a sweet, juicy, seedless choice. However, there are plenty of other delicious eating oranges that people really love eating out of hand—for instance, the Temple, the tangelo, the Page, the Cara Cara, and more…not to mention all the wonderful kinds of tangerines.

What are the best juicing oranges?

Many people consider the Valencia to be the best juicing orange. These sweet, heavy oranges are thin-skinned, making them easy to juice. They’re a classic choice.

However, if you have access to other types of orange, you can try lesser known varieties like Hamlin oranges, Temples, Pages, or maybe blood orange, which make an exciting juice! Tangerines also make great juice.

You might be surprised to learn that Navels, a great eating fruit, aren’t a good choice for juicing if you don’t plan on drinking the juice right away. A compound in the flesh causes the juice to turn somewhat sour if it sits.
To get the most juice out of your citrus, gently roll it before you try to juice it!

What is the best way to juice an orange?

The first thing to know is that there are some tricks to get more juice out of any citrus. You can try rolling your oranges, tangerines, lemons or limes around on the counter while exerting some gentle pressure with the heels of your hands. Other suggest a brief spin in the microwave—about 10 seconds—to soften it up.

Next, you’re going to need a juicer! We’ve covered the question of finding the best citrus juicer on our blog before, so we won’t reinvent the wheel here. If you’re too impatient to read through that, the short version is that you can easily find a decent electric citrus juicer for under $20 these days, but you can spend up to $100 or more on a fancier electric or hand model that looks stunning on your counter.

How do you pick an orange off a tree?

If you’re lucky enough to have access to fresh citrus trees, you might want to know the proper way to pick the fruit! The key is to twist. If you pull the fruit straight off, you may leave a bit of rind attached to the tree and opening on the peel. This isn’t a big deal if you’re going to eat the fruit right away, but if you’d like to store it, it can cause the fruit to go bad. Twist, then pull. (Our pickers have this down to science!)

As far as ripeness goes, color is one indication, but fruit can be orange before they’re fully ripe and sweet and may be greenish while ripe. So taste-test!

Got more questions about oranges and other citrus? Contact us today!

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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Tangerines…But Were Afraid to Ask

Tangerines are technically mandarin oranges!

What is a tangerine?

This seemingly simple question does not have a simple answer! Scientifically speaking, “tangerine” is an inexact word. Generally, though, when we talk about tangerines, we’re talking about a fruit that is smaller than an orange, flatter at the top and bottom, and more reddish-orange in color.

Tangerines are usually sweeter than oranges, and their flavor is often considered richer, deeper, and stronger. They’re enjoyable to eat in part due to their thin, easy-peeling skin.

Botanically speaking, tangerines are a type of mandarin orange. Mandarin oranges originated in China (hence the name), while the fruit we now call tangerines first arrived in Europe in the 1800s. They were exported through the city of Tangiers in Morocco, which lent them their name. Tangerines were first grown in the United States near Palatka, Florida.

By the way, just to add to the tangerine confusion, growers and sellers may call various tangerine-orange or tangerine-orange-grapefruit hybrids “tangerines.”

What are some common tangerine varieties?

The Dancy tangerine used to be the main tangerine in the US, but it’s given way to the honey tangerine (technically a tangerine-orange hybrid), various types of Murcott, the Fallglo, and the Sunburst.

Here at Florida Fruit Shippers, we sell three varieties of tangerines: the honey tangerine, a super-sweet little ball of honey sweetness, the Fallglo, a big, richly flavorful fruit, and the Robinson, a juicy, heritage variety that reminds us of the Page, one of the best eating fruit out there.

With a richer flavor and deep orange, tangerine juice is some of the best citrus juice out there.

What makes tangerines special?

Tangerines sometimes get just a little overshadowed by their bigger and more familiar cousin the orange, but that’s definitely a mistake. Their flavor is often considered richer than oranges by those in the know. Not only are they a great snack due to their smaller size, they actually make some of the best citrus juice out there. The color of tangerine juice is absolutely incredible—a deep, intense orange that leaves the paler hue of regular OJ looking anemic by comparison. If you haven’t tried it, you need to.

When it comes to cooking, some examples of delicious tangerine recipes include Tangerine Beef, Rosemary-Tangerine Roasted Chicken, Spinach Salad with Honey-Tangerine Dressing, Tangerine Drizzle Cake, and Tangerine Pudding. Or why not try a tangy Tangerine Margarita?

What’s the difference between a tangerine and a clementine and a Cutie and a…?

Now this is another confusing topic. Tangerines, clementines, Cuties, and the other small citrus fruit you may have seen at your grocery store in bags or crates are all technically mandarin oranges. But did you know that Pixie, Cutie, Halo, and other similar new names are not actually fruit varieties? They are brand names. The small, seedless fruits you see marketed under these names may be clementines, Murcott mandarins, Tangos, or yet another kind of seedless mandarin, depending on the time of year.

Tangerines, clementines, Cuties, etc. are all technically mandarin oranges. 

Frankly, while these little “brand name” citrus are cute, their quality can be unpredictable. Sometimes they may be great; other times they can be dry, bland, or have off flavors. Why? Well, some of the varieties they use just taste better than others. Depending on the time of year, the fruit may also have experienced long shipping and storage times (some are grown outside the United States).

The tangerines we sell here at Florida Fruit Shippers are bigger than these “mini” mandarins. And it’s true that they will have some seeds. However, we think they are juicier, more deeply flavorful, and, of course, reliably fresh and sweet. Give them a try.


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