Friday, February 14, 2020

10 of the World's Most Unusual Citrus

Here at Florida Fruit, we never get tired of learning about citrus—it’s such a unique, ancient and multifaceted fruit, with an incredibly rich history. Although we already knew about some of the unique citrus out there, we were truly amazed by some of the unusual and downright strange citrus we learned about when writing this piece.  Check out some of these fascinating fruits, and prepare to be astonished.

The Ponderosa Lemon

"World's largest lemons (Ponderosa)  (c) 2011 Boston Public Library, CC-BY-SA 2.0

Want to make an entire batch of lemonade…with just two lemons? With the Ponderosa, you might be able to. Although these citrus are actually a hybrid of a pomelo and a citron, they taste pretty much exactly like the lemons we all know and love…just WAY bigger. Ponderosas aren’t found much in stores, but if you live in a citrus-growing region, you may find someone who has one in their yard. One issue with the Ponderosa is that they’re very cold-sensitive.

The Kumquat

"Kumquat on the tree" (c) 2008 Oliver Dodd, CC-BY-SA 2.0

These little oblong fruit, approximately the size of a large olive, are pretty well-known to Floridians. However, I often find that those outside the state consider them sort of mythical or a bit of a joke fruit. What is so unusual about these is that you eat them whole—skin and all! In fact, the skin is quite sweet, almost sweeter than the inside. If you get the chance, try a candied kumquat, an old-timey Florida treat.

The Bergamot

"Bergamot" (c) 2013 Leslie  Seaton, CC-BY-SA 2.0

Ever enjoyed a hot cup of Earl Grey tea? Then you’ve savored the flavor of a bergamot, a yellow-green citrus that is believed to be a cross between a lime and a sour orange. The bergamot is too sour to eat out of hand, but has a unique and unusual fragrance that is distilled into an essential oil used in teas and perfumes. Bergamot oil is also used in Turkish delight candy and Turkish smokeless tobacco. Not your typical citrus!

The Finger Lime

Finger lime-juice vesicles (c) 2018  Ivan the Boneful CC-BY-SA 4.0

The first time I saw one of these, I wasn’t sure if it was a) real or b) a citrus at all. But it is, and they are (according to scientists). Native to Australia, the tiny lime “pearls” inside the skin pop in your mouth and are refreshingly acidic. This is one to surprise people with, for sure.

The Buddha’s Hand

We’ve featured the extremely unusual Buddha’s Hand here before due to its religious significance. This crazy-looking citrus has no juicy sections inside; instead, it’s pretty much all pith and rind. It is extremely fragrant and the zest is often candied. It may also be used to perfume clothes or rooms. When the “fingers” of the fruit are closed, it is said to resemble a praying Buddha’s hand and may be used as a religious offering.

The Citrus Bizarria

CitrusBizarria  (c) 2015 Hesperthusa, CC-BY-SA 2.0

This astonishing citrus looks like something out of a myth or legend, but it really exists. First discovered in the 1600s in Florence, Italy, these trees bear both Seville oranges and citrons on a single tree along with strange “mixed” fruit that look really weird and almost alien-like…a mixture of all kinds of citrus characteristics. The “bizarria” was thought to be lost to time until it was rediscovered by a garden caretaker in the 1970s.

The Blood Lime

Blood lime  (c) 2014 CSIRO CC-3.0

You may well have heard of, seen, or eaten the blood orange, which is orange on the outside but a striking red inside, but you probably have not encountered the blood lime—an amazing red inside and out! This is a small Australian lime that has a pretty typical lime flavor. It is a hybrid of the red finger lime and a Mandarin.

The Sour Orange

Marmalade made from the Seville orange

While not too popular in the US today, this ancient variety of orange was one of the first oranges grown and eaten and is still used in a dizzying variety of cuisines around the world, and especially in marmalade. Also called a Seville orange, the sour orange is very seedy, very sour, and extremely flavorful. You would never want to peel and eat one, but they still have great culinary value. 

The Sweet Lemon

First sour oranges…now sweet lemons? Yup. Sweet lemons, also called limettas,  look like lemons but taste rather like sweet limes and have almost no acidity. They are popular in India and the Middle East and can be peeled and eaten like an orange.

The Tangelo (Honeybell)

Wait…is a tangelo an unusual citrus? To some people it is! For one thing, that funny “bell” on the top of the fruit can strike those not familiar as pretty unexpected! For another, unless you live in Florida or shop at specialty markets, you may not have had a chance to try one. Even then, you may never have had a truly top-quality Honeybell…the ones that make it to the store often don’t fall into this category.

If you think this is the end of the story about weird, amazing, and unusual citrus…well, it definitely isn’t. There are lots more out there, from Japanese citrus that can survive when it’s 10 below, to mystical citrons considered holy, to pure black, inedible citrus.

Of course, most of us prefer the kind that taste delicious. Luckily, we’ve got plenty of those for you here at Florida Fruit Shippers. Like a touch of the unusual? We think you’ll love our Red NavelsHoneybells, or Sol Zests.

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Friday, January 31, 2020

Should You Eat an Orange in the Shower? We Tried It

Where do you eat your oranges? At the table? On a picnic? Maybe at your desk at work, or out of a lunch bag somewhere?

Sure, seems reasonable…but what about in the shower?
"Shower | No. 2”  (c) 2011 Glen Bledsoe, CC-BY-SA 2.0

Okay, we know it sounds crazy. But “shower oranges” were a surprisingly popular online fad a little while back. Believe it or not, there is an entire community on Reddit devoted to the joy of eating oranges in the shower. 

It’s really as simple as it sounds, if you’re wondering. Take an ordinary orange, bring it into the shower, peel it up as the hot water rains down on you (let the peels drop to the shower floor below!), and enjoy that new and different eating experience. Are you intrigued? We tried it at our house.

Shower Orange: Two Reviews

Shower Orange Eater #1, my daughter, is a college student. She enjoys oranges, but typically prefers them sliced, and is definitely not a fan of “the white stuff” (pith). She also has long, manicured nails, which is probably why she’s not a big fan of peeling oranges. Still, she was willing to try out the Shower Orange for science. Here’s how it went:

“Ugh! It tastes like shampoo!”
“It got in my eye.”
“I just bit a seed.”
“Eww, it’s touching my feet!”
“I don’t get the hype.”

As a matter of fact, Shower Orange Eater #1 did not even finish her orange in the shower. She preferred to consume it dry and in her PJs. Hmm.

This was not a very positive review for the Shower Orange. Still, I was determined to try it myself. Unlike my daughter, I don’t mind peeling oranges, and am happy to eat them either sliced or sectioned. Here are my thoughts:

“Wow, it’s so fragrant when you peel it in here.”
“I kind of feel like an ape.”
“I think I get it. This way you feel like you can just bite it wherever, like an apple.”
“Okay, this is fun.”
“…But yeah. I don’t want to clean this up.”

The verdict for me: I’d try the Shower Orange again, especially after a workout or a long hike. I think the orange should be cold from the fridge. I also definitely suggest choosing an orange that’s as close to seedless as possible, and one that’s very tender, with no pith or stringy bits. If it has those, you might be tempted to drop them on the shower floor, but then who’s going to clean those up? You, that’s who (unless you have someone available to clean up your shower orange mess!)

Why Did the Shower Orange Catch On? 

What’s the real story behind the shower orange mystique? I read a few articles about this, and there is a little science behind it. The high humidity and heat of the shower “atmosphere” likely increase the aromatic qualities of the oranges, as well as our ability to smell them. After all, most of our sense of taste is really our sense of smell.

Of course, another part of the appeal is the lack of stickiness! With shower oranges, you can feel free to let the juice run all over your hands and wrists, because it’s going to get washed off immediately. This makes for a less fussy, more primal orange-eating experience.

It also seems novel and different, and that’s fun. And hey, it feels kind of “naughty” to drop those peels on the floor. (This is probably more fun if someone else is going to clean them up.)

But is this enough to explain why has over 61,000 followers? (Yes, really.)

To be honest, I’m still not quite sure. You might just have to try the shower orange yourself and find out. 

(Need a recommendation? Florida Fruit Shippers suggests Navel Oranges or Sol Zest Mandarins for your shower orange—Honeybells in season.)

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Monday, January 13, 2020

What’s the Difference Between an Orange and a Mandarin Orange?

When you think of a mandarin orange, what comes to mind?

Do you think of those little seedless fruit that you get for your kids’ lunch?

Maybe you imagine those oranges that come in a can and get mixed with fruit and whipped cream or put on green salads.

As usual when it comes to the citrus “family tree,” though, the truth is more complicated!

The mandarin orange is indeed a little, squat fruit, smaller than the big round eating oranges like the Navel.  The taste of a mandarin is extra sweet, and you won’t find much white pith when you peel their thin skin.

And yes, some types of mandarin have long been canned, mainly because their small size, sweet taste, and lack of pith makes that easy and marketable.

Mandarins Might Not Be What You Think

But the mandarin isn’t a hybrid or a recently developed specialty citrus. Actually, instead of asking, “What is a mandarin orange?”, it might be more accurate to ask—what isn’t (at least in part) a mandarin?

In fact, we can probably think of the mandarin as the mother of almost all the citrus we know and love today.

The mandarin, a very ancient fruit, is believed to have originated in an area that includes Japan, Vietnam, and China. Their ancestors can still be found growing wild there in the mountains. (Where did the name “mandarin” some from? It's thought to be related to the yellow or orange cloaks worn by “mandarins,” the government officials of China when the fruit began to be exported.) It's such a delicious fruit that many of the citrus we eat today were developed from it!

Which Fruits Are and Aren't Mandarins?

So, how does this relate to the citrus we love today? Well...

1. These fruits are definitely mandarin oranges:

--Tangerines, including the Dancy, Sunburst, and Murcott (honey) tangerines

While many people use the terms “mandarin” and “tangerine” interchangeably, it is more accurate to say that a tangerine is a type of mandarin. 

2. These fruits are commonly called mandarins, and closely related to the “original” mandarins:


Clementines are very closely related to the original mandarins and usually quite small. You can know a clementine by its very smooth, shiny rind.

3. These fruit are also descended from mandarins, though more distantly:

--Tangelos, like the Honeybell
--All sweet oranges, like navels, Temples, and juicing oranges
--Even lemons and limes!

Yep, that’s right! All of these very popular and well-known fruits have mandarin "moms and dads."

Have we convinced you of the importance of the mandarin yet?

A New Favorite Mandarin

Here at Florida Fruit, of course, we sell a lot of mandarin-type fruit. One of the most “mandarin-y” (and one you’ll see us actually referring to as a mandarin) is our new Sol Zest mandarin. These fruit are newly available in Florida, and you won’t yet see them in stores. We think their bright, sweet flavor, small size, seedlessness, and ease of peeling makes them an incredibly easy fruit to love.

Mandarins have long been linked to good luck and the new year in Asian culture. This might be why oranges also are associated with Christmas celebrations in Christianity. There’s something about the bright, juicy taste of citrus in winter that’s awfully hard to resist, as we at Florida Fruit Shippers definitely know!

If you enjoy the uniquely sweet tang of mandarin oranges, here are a few recipes that celebrate this ancestral and delicious “mother of citrus”:

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Sunday, December 29, 2019

Do Some Citrus Growers Dye Their Fruit?

Have you ever been to the grocery store and seen oranges on display that are so incredibly bright orange that they almost looked fake? I have. Sometimes they’re also very shiny, or have skins that seem very thick and leathery.

They certainly are beautiful, but maybe you felt a bit puzzled by these fruit. Did it almost seem like they were “too good to be true,” or might be intended more to look at than to eat?

Very perfect
Dyeing to Look Pretty

If you were suspicious that something not so natural could be involved here, you could be right. Though few people realize it, some growers use artificial dye on the outside of their oranges.
The dye used, FD&C red #2, can be found in various foods we buy at the supermarket and is not thought to be harmful. You should see (by law) an indication somewhere on the package that dyeing has occurred.

However, many of us wouldn’t expect to find synthetic dyes in fresh fruit like oranges. And a lot of people prefer to avoid artificial dyes due to allergies or sensitivities. That’s why, at Florida Fruit Shippers, we never sell fruit that has been dyed.

Why Dye?
So, why do some growers choose to dye their citrus? It’s actually pretty simple. As we have explained elsewhere on this blog, oranges don’t have to be fully orange (or even orange at all!) to be ripe. The fruit turns color due to cool temperatures, not as an indicator of ripeness.
Green but fully ripe oranges from Brazil

Consumers, of course, may not know this! If they see green or greenish citrus at market, they could pass it by. After all, we do tend to “eat” with our eyes. On the whole, people choose produce that is the most intensely colored, even if that has been done artificially. And large commercial growers selling to grocery stores don’t have the luxury of hand selecting each piece of fruit, like we do here at FFS.

(Did you know that artificial food dyes are illegal in many countries? It’s true! Another interesting fact is that it is possible to dye fabric with orange peels. Yes, we mean the kind that haven’t been given an artificial color-boost! Typically the fruit is bright enough to leave its “mark” behind in natural cloth.)

The Real Way to Judge Ripeness
So, since color may not be a reliable indicator, how growers know whether fruit is ripe? We have lots of ways! In general, as fruit specialists, we have a good idea when the fruit “should be” ready for harvest. But because we want to make sure it’s at its peak before we pick, we use some special equipment to check the balance of acidity and sugar levels in the fruit. The process is pretty scientific, though naturally, we also rely on our own judgement and expertise as well.

Now, we all love to open a box and see a beautiful array of gorgeously orange fruit. It’s definitely part of the gift fruit experience, and we work hard to ensure that your fruit is as attractive as possible. But we always believe that superior taste and your satisfaction come first. That’s why Florida Fruit Shippers will never dye our citrus. Your experience is pure Florida….no artificial ingredients.
Naturally beautiful oranges in the Florida Fruit Shippers groves

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Wednesday, December 18, 2019

How to Make Your Own Orange Soda at Home

Did you love to drink orange soda when you were a little kid? My younger child adores this flavor. However, as we get older, many of us tend to lose our taste for the commercial version of this drink.

If you still like the idea of a bubbly citrus beverage, but don’t miss the artificial colors and syrupy taste, you’re in luck. It’s super-easy to DIY a more sophisticated, “adult” orange soda at home.

To make your own orange soda, all you’ll need is oranges, sugar, and unflavored seltzer. You can also get crazy and make a fancy orange cream soda with half and half or heavy cream. The steps are simple.


4 oranges of any kind
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Seltzer as needed for the amount of “sodas” desired

  1. Thoroughly zest the oranges. I really like my microplane zester because the zest comes out so easily, but the zester on a box grater will work as well. Be careful not to grate into the white pith, which is bitter.
    Zesting the oranges using a microplaner
  2. Place zest into a medium saucepan.
  3. Juice your zested oranges into a measuring cup. Pour ½ cup of the resulting juice (no seeds, please!) into the saucepan. (You’ll probably have more orange juice than this. Feel free to drink it!)
    Zest, juice, sugar and water on the stove
  4. Add 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water to the pot. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Strain the mixture, pour into a jar or container, and allow it to cool. You’ve just created some delicious orange syrup!
    Finished syrup
  6. To make your orange soda, simply mix syrup with seltzer at about a 1:3 ratio (so, for instance, 1/3 cup syrup to 1 cup seltzer) and serve over ice.
Delicious DIY orange soda

Want to really "do it up" and make your own orange cream soda? Mix as above, but before adding ice, slowly pour in about 1-2 tbsp light or heavy cream. If desired, top with whipped cream. Fancy!

Your syrup should last in the fridge for at least a month or two, but you probably won't have it around that long. It's also delicious used in mixed drinks. Try adding some Italian Campari for a low-alcohol aperitif. You can also use this syrup for soaking homemade cakes, or even on pancakes or ice cream.

You can make other citrus sodas the same way, though you'll want to increase the sugar for lime, grapefruit, or lemon.  It would also be fun to try some simple variations on this syrup--orange mint, orange cardamon, orange vanilla, or orange cinnamon, for example. Include these flavorings in the simmering step with the zest and strain them out before bottling.

Enjoy your easy, delicious homemade orange soda and other treats.

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Friday, November 29, 2019

What's a Tiki Drink....and Why do Tiki Lovers Love White Grapefruit?

I was recently lucky enough to enjoy a relaxing getaway to beautiful Jupiter Island, FL. One night, we stopped in at the Square Grouper, a legendary tiki/beach bar. It sits by the water, serves fabulous fruity drinks under giant palm trees, and is pretty much everything you’d ever wanted from a tropical Florida getaway.

I’m normally more of a beer and wine drinker. But that night, I ordered a fruity, citrus-based tiki-style cocktail. When in Rome, do as the Romans do—and when at a Florida tiki bar, order tiki drinks!

What’s a Tiki Bar?

“Thatch Tiki Bar”  (c) 2008 ryan harvey, CC-BY-SA 2.0

Tiki bars (which are not the same as beach bars) never really went out of style in Florida. But if you live in the rest of the country, you may not know what this quirky tradition is all about. 

Tiki has many elements, but it typically features tropical plants and gardens, a “woodsy,” yet colorful look, tiki (Polynesian humanoid) carvings, tropical-style music (sometimes with live performers or a Polynesian theme), and of course, very elaborate tiki cocktails.

In truth, "tiki" isn’t fully authentic to any one country. While it has elements of Polynesian culture, it’s also kind of a romanticized American invention. The two (American) bars that started it all were Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic’s. Both these classic tiki bars eventually became large chains that spread all over the world.

Tiki Cocktails

So, what makes a cocktail “tiki”? Usually there are lots of ingredients, plenty of rum, spiced syrups, and tropical juices and fruits. Tiki drinks also almost always use citrus juices, like orange, lime, lemon, and grapefruit. They’re often served in fancy “tiki” mugs and include fun garnishes, like little umbrellas or flowers. Some drinks are big enough to share.

Popular Tiki Drinks

While the list of tiki drinks goes on and on, here are a few that are especially popular. Recipes are often “secret,” so opinions differ on what exactly to include. However, the main elements usually stay the same.

The Rum Runner has quite a long list of ingredients, including (of course) rum, orange juice, lime juice, pineapple juice, grenadine, banana liqueur and blackberry liqueur.

The Navy Grog plays to the tradition of “drinking citrus in the navy to prevent scurvy.” It always includes rum, lime juice, and white grapefruit juice.

The Scorpion is a strong drink that includes gin, rum, brandy, wine, orange juice, lemon juice, and orgeat, an almond syrup.

The Zombie may feature rum, white grapefruit juice, cinnamon, lime juice, lemon juice, orange curacao, grenadine, falernum, and/or bitters. 

The Mai Tai calls for rum, lime juice, almond syrup, and mint.

The Magic of White Grapefruit

 Authentic tiki recipes typically date back to the 1950s or even earlier-- before today's very sweet pink and red grapefruit were introduced. What this means is that tiki drink recipes were written to match the tarter, fuller, brighter flavor profile of white grapefruit.  It's just the perfect choice for these classic recipes, and goes especially well with warm spices, like nutmeg and cinnamon.

Yet white grapefruit can be hard to find these days. So lovers of authentic tiki cocktails are often a little frustrated in their quest to to buy white grapefruit for tiki drinks. In fact, many web posts on tiki drink forums feature tiki lovers wondering where to find white grapefruit. We’re happy to help here at Florida Fruit!

Florida Tiki

Want to enjoy some tiki culture yourself? A search for tiki bars in Florida yields hundreds of enticing options, from Jacksonville to (of course) the Keys. If you live in or visit the state and have never visited one of these tropical getaways, you owe it to yourself to check one out. Choose one by the water, and go at sunset. As the palm fronds wave overhead and you enjoy a delicious beverage, alcoholic or not, you’ll likely enjoy some feelings of well-being and relaxation…perhaps even a slight sense of time travel. 

Of course, if you can’t get to a tiki bar, that’s okay! Pick up some of these ingredients and enjoy concocting one of these delicious beverages at home.

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Thursday, November 14, 2019

Citrus Myths and Facts

Oranges and other citrus fruit are so beautiful and delicious, it’s no wonder they’ve traveled the globe and become popular just about everywhere. As we’ve seen elsewhere on this blog, citrus is meaningful in religion and in art, and it is included in delicious dishes in cuisines worldwide. After all, we’ve been enjoying oranges, tangerines, grapefruit and other citrus since the 1500s! 

With all these uses, and such a long history, it’s no wonder that some myths have “grown up” around oranges and citrus over time. You might even believe a few yourself. Today, we’ll test your knowledge of citrus truths and myths. How many will surprise you?

Myth or fact: You can tell whether an orange is ripe by how orange it is.


Myth. The orange color of…oranges (and other citrus) is actually caused by cool temperatures, not by fruit becoming ripe. In fact, in warmer areas, citrus may become fully mature without turning orange at all!

Myth or fact: Grapefruit is better for you than other citrus.


Myth. Grapefruits do have this reputation, but they probably aren't better for you than other citrus. Though they have a few less calories, the difference really isn’t significant. They have a bit less vitamin C than other citrus, though they pack more vitamin A. Enjoy the citrus you prefer!

Myth or fact: Oranges are native to Florida.


Myth! As much as we Floridians might like to claim oranges as our own, they are believed to have originated in Asia (though, honestly, nobody is quite sure about this). Citrus was first brought to Florida by Spaniards in the 1500s, and, well, the rest is history.

Myth or fact: Citrus fights colds.


Mixture. Science tells us that vitamin C may be slightly helpful in fighting colds or decreasing their length a bit. The effect isn’t dramatic, but upping your citrus consumption can’t hurt!

Myth or fact: British sailors are called “limeys” because of all the limes they ate.


Fact. I didn’t know this until I researched the long and strange history of scurvy, otherwise known as vitamin C deficiency. Today, vitamin C deficiency is fortunately very rare (thanks to our relatively healthy diets). But back in the bad old days, millions of sailors died due to the very restricted diets they ate at sea. When the “cure” was finally discovered, bottled lime juice was kept on board to head off the illness. Hence, “limeys.”

Myth or fact: Citrus might help you live longer.


Fact!  Scientists have found that people who regularly include citrus like oranges, grapefruit, and tangerines in their diet are less likely to get cancer. This may be because of the vitamin C. Or it could be due to other compounds found in citrus, such as antioxidants.

Myth or fact: Grapefruit helps you lose weight.


Mixture. The so-called grapefruit diet dates back to the 1930s. Followers are supposed to eat half a grapefruit and/or drink a glass of grapefruit juice with every meal. Meanwhile, fat will “melt away.”

Scientists have yet to find any magical “fat burning” ingredient in these delicious citrus fruits. However, in a 12-week study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, people who ate grapefruit or drank grapefruit juice several times a day did lose an average of about 3 pounds, with some participants losing much more. It’s possible that grapefruit’s high water and fiber content may make people feel full, causing them to eat less at meals.

Myth or fact: The “navel” on a navel orange is another baby orange.


Fact! The sweet navel orange that we all enjoy has a tiny underdeveloped “twin” orange at the end of each fruit. That’s not on purpose; it’s just the way the variety, a spontaneous mutation, appeared in the wild. Because the navel is seedless, it has to be propagated through grafting.

We hope you learned something from our citrus facts and myths. There’s always something new to find out about these amazing fruits. Happy snacking!

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