Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Why Buy Seville Oranges? This Expert Marmalade Maker Knows!

Veda Karlo, of New York City, is a long-time customer of Florida Fruit Shippers who enjoys making her own marmalade using our Seville oranges. She has become so interested in the hobby that she regularly enters her marmalades in contests, including the World’s Original Marmalade Awards contest, held annually in Cumbria, England.

Though marmalade can be made with other types of oranges, this famous, bittersweet orange preserve is traditionally made with Seville oranges for the best flavor. This type of orange is rarely found in stores, so online purveyors like Florida Fruit Shippers are the perfect way to buy. We had a chance to interview Veda about this fun and intriguing hobby.

Seville Oranges, also known as 'marmalade oranges' or 'bitter oranges'. Photo by A. Barra [CC BY-SA 4.0]

How much marmalade or jam do you make per year, and how many kinds do you typically make?
I make about 500 pints of jam in the summer, and an equal amount of marmalade in the winter. I make over 50-60 kinds in one year, since I often experiment with new combinations while making old favorites as well. I haven't sold a jar ever, so as to maintain my amateur status! Instead, I give the jars away to all my family and friends and donate the rest to charity sales.

Preserves travel really well, and mine go all over the world. Their long shelf life makes them an ideal gift. I have cases of jam and marmalade under every bed in my apartment, just waiting to be transferred to a new home.

How do you like to use your marmalades?
I have always loved baking, and the ideal partner for bread is jam or marmalade. Marmalade also makes an ideal topping for yogurt or cottage cheese, a great filling for cakes and cookies, and a good addition to ice creams and sauces. It also has savory uses, such as marinades or glazes. Seville orange marmalade also finds its way into some great cocktails.

Can you describe the Marmalade Awards?
The English love jam and marmalade, and the stores there offer hundreds of different varieties. Above all, they prize Seville orange marmalade. (Winston Churchill even allowed the transport of Seville oranges during the blockade in World War II, feeling them necessary to the morale of the war-torn English people.)

The Marmalade Awards and Festival, now in its 13th year, happens during National Marmalade Week. Only the English would go that far in celebration of marmalade! Over 3,000 entries make their way to Cumbria from over 50 countries. The judging and awards ceremony are held at the beautiful Dalemain historic mansion in Penrith.

My daughter and her husband moved to London two years ago, so we get to visit them three times a year. Over the last five years, I have been able to travel to the festival three times, where I have enjoyed meeting others who are interested in making good marmalade. The Q and A sessions are very intense, and the display of 3,000 jars is an impressive assortment, especially when you consider that this all really starts from just 3 basic ingredients: citrus, sugar and water. I am proud to say I have won gold at Dalemain for every category I have entered!

Tell us more about your Seville Orange, Cranberry and Horseradish Marmalade, which won the “Most Inventive” prize at the Marmalade Awards last year. How did you come up with this recipe?
Orange and cranberries are common companions for Thanksgiving, and horseradish is so very English, so I thought the three combined would make a great savory marmalade. It sounds like an odd trio, but the combination is quite distinctive and useful for cold cuts, roasts, and glazing vegetables.

Why do you use Seville oranges in your marmalades?
I thank those who have kept those Seville orange groves alive. I understand they make great root stock for other table oranges, but I like to think that I am getting the descendants of those brought over by the St. Augustine friars in the 1700s to Florida. Florida Seville oranges have the best and most authentic flavor and taste, compared to the CA oranges, which might be other varieties, though all are marketed legitimately under the name “Seville.”

Why do you choose to order your Seville oranges online?
I have lived on the upper east side of Manhattan for almost 50 years, which is not farm country. I do have access to spectacular local produce at the GrowNYC's Farmers Green market at Union Square, where I have shopped for many years and have volunteered on Wednesdays for over six years. However, we do not have citrus in NY state, except for a few trees in greenhouses on Long Island.

Ordering online is the perfect answer for everyone, no matter where one is living in the US. Few supermarkets carry specialty citrus, and even if they do, the fruit has been processed and is not at optimum freshness. I tried several options, but Florida Fruit Shippers has been the most reliable and cooperative in providing the citrus for my Seville marmalades. I order about 4-5 (4-tray) boxes each winter, and the company has been great about staggering the shipments, as I can only deal with one box at a time. Having the fruit delivered to my door is fantastic.

What advice do you have for someone making orange marmalade for the first time?
Seville orange marmalade is the ultimate marmalade, and requires some dedication to make a decent batch. For newbies, I would recommend reading Christine Ferber’s books and Rachel Saunder’s Blue Chair books. Making marmalade is easy, but requires some time.

The process is very flexible, and is best spread over several days so the project is not too daunting. I watch BBC series while I sliver the citrus. Then I put it aside to soak overnight to release the pectin and reduce bitterness, and cook it whenever it is convenient on the third day.

Do you have a marmalade recipe you can share with us?
Here is a simplified recipe for Seville Orange cranberry horseradish marmalade. It’s great for Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas ham!

Seville Orange Cranberry Horseradish Marmalade
2 lbs. Seville oranges (5-6)
2 lbs. fresh cranberries
1/2 lb. lemons (2)
1/4-1/2 lb. fresh horseradish root, depending on sharpness desired
4 lbs. sugar

  1. Wash and juice Seville oranges.
  2. Refrigerate juice.
  3. Cover skins with water overnight to remove some of the bitterness.
  4. Next day, drain off water and add more fresh water to cover skins and simmer for 2 1/2 hours covered, until very tender.
  5. Cool. Scrape off membranes and some of the white pith, and discard along with water.
  6. Cut cooked orange peels into fine strips or chop coarsely in food processor.
  7. In large pot, combine oranges, reserved orange juice, cranberries, 1/2 c. water and sugar.
  8. Stir to dissolve sugar.
  9. Bring to a full boil and stir occasionally until cranberries pop, about 4-5 min.
  10. Meanwhile, squeeze lemons.
  11. Grate peeled horseradish directly into lemon juice to preserve sharpness.
  12. Add to pot and boil another 2-3 min. until mixture reaches 220 F on a candy thermometer.
  13. Turn off heat, and skim off any floating scum.
  14. Pour into sterilized jars and cover with lids and rings.
  15. Process in boiling water bath for 5 minutes for long term storage, or just refrigerate for 2-3 weeks.
  16. Cool undisturbed for a day.

For more about Seville oranges, take a look at our blog on this fruit: The Magic of The Sour Seville. And if you’d like to try your own hand at marmalade (or one of the many other recipes that call for Sevilles), you can order Seville oranges from Florida Fruit Shippers.

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Monday, December 10, 2018

How to Make Candied Orange Peel at Home

Everyone loves eating fresh oranges, tangerines, tangelos, and grapefruit, but did you know that some of the most concentrated flavor in citrus is actually in the peel? Citrus peel is also extremely nutritious, containing many vital phytonutrients. Though some recipes call for citrus zest or peel, we most often just throw it away.

Since I eat so many citrus fruit in season (sometimes we may go through 8 in a day!), I have spent some time thinking about all those discarded peels. One of my favorite uses, especially as the holiday roll around, is making candied orange peel. It’s super delicious...like fresh orange gummy bears, but better!

Note that there’s no need to peel citrus just for this use. When we’re eating a lot of citrus and I know I’ll have time to make these, I just remove peels the way this recipe indicates. You can store them in the fridge in an airtight container for a few days until you’re ready to proceed.

For this recipe, you want citrus with thicker, easy-peeling skin. Navels are a great choice. Tangelos or tangerines could also work. Avoid thin-skinned, hard-to-peel varieties.

You can also use grapefruit for this recipe, though you’ll want to go through the boil/discard water step a couple more times to cut down on bitterness.

A note on quantities: this recipe can easily be scaled up or down. The syrup proportions are simply 1:1 sugar to water. When coating with finished peels with sugar, just use as much as seems necessary.

4 medium/large oranges
2 ½ cups sugar, divided
2 cups water (plus water for boiling)
Chocolate chips, as desired, for coating (optional)

  1. First, cut the top and bottom off 4 medium-sized fruit. There’s no need to cut a lot off here—you just don’t want the very ends.

  2. Next, score the fruit in quarters lengthwise. If the orange were a globe, this would be along its “longitudes,” not the equator. Go pretty deep with a sharp knife, till you feel the blade hitting up against the orange flesh.

  3. At this point, you should be able to gently remove the peel in 4 neat sections. Don’t worry about the white pith—its pectin lends chewy texture to the finished product.
  4. Now cut the quartered peel into strips. I like them about ¼ thick, but some prefer thinner, more like 1/8”.

  5. Put your sliced peel into a pot and cover generously with cold water. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 5 minutes. Drain, cover with fresh cold water, boil 5 minutes, and drain. Repeat the process one more time and drain.
  6. Combine two cups of granulated white sugar with two cups of water in the same pot and bring to a rolling boil. Add the peel. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. (pic 6) Simmer gently for approximately 45-60 minutes or until peel is translucent. The pith should no longer appear white, but instead saturated with syrup. However, be careful not to overcook it such that the peel begins to break apart.
  7. Remove peel with a slotted spoon to a wire cooling rack. I put my cooling rack over a cookie sheet lined with tin foil to make cleanup easier. Allow the peel to cool just enough to handle (they need to still be “tacky”), then roll them in the remaining ½ cup sugar. (Note: the remaining sugar water is an orange-flavored syrup now. Don’t throw it away! It is excellent in tea or mixed drinks, can be poured on cakes, and will keep well in the fridge.)

  8. Leave the sugared peel out to dry for at least 4-6 hours or overnight, then store in an airtight container in a dry place at room temperature. Candied peel will keep for several months. (pic 10)
  9. Enjoy eating, gifting, or cooking and baking with your delicious candied peel!
  10. To coat your candied peel in chocolate and make a true orangette, wait till your peel has dried overnight. Then melt some chocolate chips over a double boiler or in the microwave. For a traditional appearance, dip in only one end. Let dry on a wire cooling rack. Store separately from peel that has not been chocolate-dipped. Orangettes do not keep as long and should be eaten within a week or two.

Many wonderful recipes using candied orange peel are available on the Florida Fruit Shippers Pinterest Page, https://www.pinterest.com/flfruitshippers/boards/ specifically on our Citrus Desserts https://www.pinterest.com/flfruitshippers/citrus-desserts/ and Rise-n-Shine with Citrus https://www.pinterest.com/flfruitshippers/rise-n-shine-with-citrus/ pages.

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Monday, December 3, 2018

Florida Citrus: The Perfect Gift When You Don’t Know What to Gift

It’s that time of year again—the time when you need to find and buy gifts for… well, it sometimes seems like just about everyone.

When it comes to some recipients, this task is easy. I love nothing more than picking out fun new toys for young children. And everyone knows the satisfaction of finding the perfect, unexpected item for someone whose tastes you know well. For others, a simple gift card to a favorite store is just right.

The Ones You Get Stuck On

But what about that favorite teacher whose tastes you don’t know? Those new business clients who need a gesture of appreciation?

How about the aging relative who literally has everything… and then some? Then there’s the acquaintance who did you that big favor. You need something for her, but you’ve never been to her house. What would be right?

Unfortunately, there are so many ways to go wrong when you need to buy a gift for someone you don’t know well.

Books and music? Too personal.

Gift cards? Not personal enough!

Accessories, jewelry, and the like? It’s just impossible to predict other people’s tastes and preferences.

Bath items and lotions? Many people avoid these items due to disliking strong scents.

As for knick-knacks and decorative items, most of us have way too many of these already. (If you haven’t been trying out the current trend of decluttering, it might be time to start! For instance, have you heard of Marie Kondo’s “life-changing magic of tidying up” or of “Swedish death cleaning”? Both can make your life calmer, simpler, and more peaceful.)

Is Food a Good Option?

So… no entertainment items, no personal care, no clothes, no knick-knacks. What’s left? We often fall back on tradition and go with the old favorite: food.

In lots of ways, this is a great choice. After all, who doesn’t like food? Cookies, chocolate, candy—yum. Plus, there’s something about the tradition of celebrating the holidays this way that feels warm and genuine.

But…let’s face it. This can be a minefield! 45 million Americans diet every year. Twelve to thirteen percent report food allergies. And about 60% are on a restricted diet of some kind: low-carb, vegan, gluten-free, paleo...and the list goes on.

About to give up? Here’s where we come in.

Florida Citrus: The Gift Everyone Can Enjoy

While these food restrictions do rule out most traditional holiday food gifts, here’s one virtually every single person on your list can have: sweet, juicy, healthful Florida citrus, like our oranges, tangerines, and grapefruit.

Even the most restrictive diet is likely to allow fresh citrus! Allergies to it are very rare.

Plus, enjoying a sweet orange or tangerine is not going to cause any worries about not eating well. Instead, your gift recipient can feel good about enjoying a gift that’s completely guilt-free while also being truly delicious.

At a time when heavy, calorie-laden treats are all around us, a holiday gift of Florida citrus is a truly brilliant choice. Our delicious, juicy oranges and grapefruit can be enjoyed by all. They won’t blow anyone’s diet or make anyone feel sorry that they ate them. They certainly won’t be hidden away in a closet, and they won’t end up regifted or need to be donated to the thrift store.

And afterwards? No one will have to “declutter” anything but a few peels.

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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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Monday, February 5, 2018

10 New Ways to Enjoy Juicy-Sweet Ruby Red Grapefruit

In my family growing up, Christmas morning breakfast was a ritual. We always ate it off the “fancy” china, and we always had two things: a special homemade coffee cake, and fresh Florida grapefruit, halved, sectioned, and lightly sprinkled with sugar. Something about the juicy, tart-sweet fruit really set off the flavor of the rich cake.

The History of Grapefruit

Did you know that grapefruit is a hybrid of the orange and a fruit called the pommelo? It’s true. First seen in the Caribbean, the fruit was brought to Florida sometime in the early 1800s by an interesting character, Count Odet Philippe.

At first, grapefruit were either pale pink or white. Some varieties were extremely flavorful, but they all tended towards the more sour end of the spectrum. But in 1929, a new grapefruit mutation was discovered with red flesh and a much sweeter taste. This was the birth of the “Ruby Red” grapefruit, which soon became explosively popular due to its incredibly enjoyable and approachable flavor. Other delectably sweet and juicy “red” varieties have followed.

Grapefruit is certainly a delicious addition to the breakfast table. I love it because it’s absolutely never dry or bland, and always adds such a pop of juicy flavor to my day. But there’s a lot more to grapefruit than the halved fruit in a bowl that I enjoyed as a kid. Grapefruit and grapefruit juice can bring a refreshing and sparkling zing to cocktails, appetizers, main dishes, salads, and desserts (along, of course, with breakfast).

One important but very easy thing to learn about grapefruit is the various ways to section and cut it for eating and cooking. We found a great tutorial showing 3 basic ways: halving and sectioning (basically, the “old-fashioned way” you probably know from childhood); removing beautiful sections from the peel and membrane using a knife, also called supreming; and a slightly more time-consuming method of removing the fruit from the membrane by hand. If you’re going to use grapefruit in a recipe, method #2, supreming, is probably the easiest and fastest.

Here are 10 ways to enjoy grapefruit that you probably haven’t tried before. Take a second look at this sometimes-underused fruit and see how sophisticated, luscious, and yes, sexy it can be.

Grapefruit Cocktails: Sweet and Sour

Have you ever grilled a grapefruit? Me neither, but I’m definitely intrigued by this exotic cocktail featuring honey syrup, fresh sage, silver tequila, and wheels of Ruby Red grapefruit that have been lightly grilled. Not a drink you see every day.

Grilled Grapefruit and Sage Cocktail

Looking for something a little simpler? This grapefruit martini may remind you a little bit of a Cosmopolitan, but with a fresher, more sophisticated flair. As long as you have simple syrup on hand, it’s a cinch to make.

Ruby Red Grapefruit Martini

Grapefruit in Salads: Fresh and Luscious

This cool, delectable salad of fresh grapefruit, perfect avocado, Bibb lettuce, and tender shrimp looks like it really ought to be eaten poolside in Florida on a 70-degree day in February. If you can’t manage that, well…you could eat it indoors on a 40-degree day somewhere else and just imagine you’re down here.

Grapefruit Avocado Shrimp Salad

Grapefruit and seafood are often paired, and for a reason—they really complement each other. Here, mahi mahi gets glazed with grapefruit juice and seared, then served over fresh greens and yellow peppers and topped with supremed grapefruit and pistachios.

Grapefruit and Spinach Salad with Glazed Mahi Mahi

Grapefruit in Main Dishes: Juicy and Savory

Here’s a truly Floridian dish: fresh Florida pompano in a sauce made from butter, white wine, and the juice of fresh ruby red grapefruit, with chopped pistachios on top.

Florida Pompano with a Meyer Lemon Grapefruit Sauce

What? Grapefruit…risotto? Yes! Combined with fresh thyme, red onions, and parmesan, this is a completely different dish.

Red Grapefruit Risotto with Red Onions and Thyme

Grapefruit in Desserts: Sweet and Gorgeous

I had a grapefruit pie at a local restaurant last winter that’s haunted my dreams ever since. It was kind of like lemon meringue, but not so sweet, with a graham cracker crust, and there was some kind of caramel involved, too. This recipe isn’t quite the same, but it’s similar.

Chilled Grapefruit Caramel Meringue Pie

A pavlova is a showstopper dessert combining a crispy meringue shell, fresh fruit, and whipped cream. Here, we get meringue nests burnished with reduced grapefruit juice filled to the rim with whipped cream that’s mixed with juicy supremed red grapefruit….wow!

Grapefruit Pavlova with Grapefruit Mousse

Grapefruit for Breakfast: Tangy Good Morning

Okay, you’ve had donuts. You’ve had grapefruit. But we bet you haven’t had grapefruit donuts—right? The juicy grapefruit flavor is in the donut and the glaze here. How fun is that?

Grapefruit Donuts

Citrus and poppyseeds go together like…well, they just go together. These bright-flavored treats feature grapefruit in the scones themselves and in the pretty pink glaze.

Glazed Grapefruit Poppyseed Scones

If you’d like to see more grapefuit recipes and ideas, visit our Pinterest page. Enjoy these new ways to savor this healthful and delicious fruit.

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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Citrus and Your Health

Is there anything easier to grab, yet more naturally delicious than a sweet, ripe orange, a plump, juicy tangerine, or a refreshingly tart grapefruit? I know how much I look forward to enjoying this Floridian bounty every fall, winter and spring. There’s just nothing like it.

But while we know that eating fresh fruit is generally good for our health, have you ever found yourself wondering about the specific health benefits of fresh citrus? For instance, would it be fair to consider citrus a “superfood,” or is it just another good option?

If you’ve ever wanted to know more about what citrus can do for your health, read on to learn 9 great reasons why citrus is more than just a deliciously easy snack!

Citrus is chock full of nutrients

Of course, almost everyone knows that citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, lemons, and limes are high in health-giving vitamin C. (Of the citrus most commonly eaten, oranges and tangerines are the highest in C, followed by grapefruit, then lemons and limes.) But it doesn’t stop there. Citrus is rich in potassium, folate, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, and B vitamins as well, all of which play key roles in supporting health, from preventing birth defects to making sure fluids are in good balance. Citrus also contains phytonutrients—plant compounds such as flavonoids, alkaloids, carotenoids, limonoids, and more. We’re only beginning to understand the many crucial roles that these plant compounds play in supporting our health.

Citrus is full of fiber

We all know that fiber is good for us, right? It helps us feel full longer, reduces cholesterol levels, and, well, it keeps us regular. Oranges, grapefruit, and other citrus fruit are a great source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which both play important roles in the body. An average serving of citrus should provide about 1-3 grams of fiber, or somewhere around 10% of what you need in a day.

Citrus may shorten your cold

Can loading up on fresh orange juice (or hot citrus toddies!) actually prevent a cold? Research doesn’t seem to support the idea that the vitamin C in citrus can STOP colds from developing. However, getting adequate C may help shorten the length of your cold, perhaps by about a day. That’s nothing to sneeze at. (See what we did there?)

Citrus supports heart health

Citrus fruit like oranges are rich in hesperidins, which are thought to increase blood flow and potentially lower blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Citrus may fight cancer

Numerous nutrients and compounds in citrus have been shown to have cancer-fighting potential in the lab and in studies. In fact, research suggests that people who eat more citrus seem to have lower rates of certain cancers, including cancers of the colon, esophagus, and stomach. This effect is even stronger in people who also regularly drink green tea!

Citrus doesn’t spike your blood sugar

Especially considering their sweet taste, oranges have a low glycemic index, meaning they don’t cause your blood sugar to shoot up quickly after you eat them but instead cause a slower, more even rise. Foods with a low glycemic index are better for us because they may keep us full longer and cause the body to store less fat.

Citrus is great for your diet

Despite their sweet taste, oranges, tangerines, tangelos, grapefruit, and other citrus are low on calories while being full of flavor and zing, along with the fiber that fills us up. The average large orange is only about 70-80 calories! (Compare to a banana at 105). What’s more, citrus juice and zest are awesome at adding flavor to food without adding salt, refined sugar, or other unwanted stuff. Some even believe that grapefruit, in particular, is a metabolism booster.

Citrus helps you absorb iron

Foods high in vitamin C, like oranges and other citrus fruit, can dramatically increase the body’s absorption of iron from food when the two types of food are eaten together. For instance, if you cook your high-iron shrimp with a delicious orange sauce, you’ll absorb that iron much better!

Citrus may help us look younger

The Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and antioxidants found in citrus fruit like oranges, tangerines, and grapefruit can benefit your skin and hair, contributing to a younger appearance. Sounds good to me!

Overall, we think you’ll agree that citrus is more than just delicious—it can have significant positive effects on your body. Enjoy these tasty fruits and the long-term benefits they can bring. To your health!


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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Citrus in Art: A Long and Beautiful History

It’s possible we’re a little biased, but around here, we consider citrus fruit and citrus trees to be breathtakingly beautiful. The glossy green leaves, the delicate, ethereally fragrant flowers…and then, of course, the fruit, in all its glorious shades of rose, golden, yellow, orange, pink, bright or deep green, and sometimes even scarlet. When you cut them open, more beauty ensues: the translucent sections shine gloriously in the light, once again displaying a rainbow of hues. 

Is it any wonder, then, that citrus fruits have been a favorite subject of artists for hundreds of years? Quick history lesson: citrus fruit originated and was first cultivated in Asia. Several thousand years later, it spread slowly to the Mediterranean. The first citrus to “travel” was the citron, which most of us wouldn’t really recognize as tasty or familiar—it was mostly peel, with a dry, inedible interior, but did have a pleasant citrusy scent. Eventually lemons also reached the Mediterranean, with limes, sour oranges, and the pomelo (the ancestor of the grapefruit) then making their way slowly around the area and into Europe. Sweet oranges came last, in the 1500s. Citrus was also brought to Florida by the Spaniards around this time.

From the beginning, cultivated citrus was treasured, valued, and expensive. The fruits acquired religious significance in various cultures and were associated with health and wealth. Of course, they were also used in cooking, especially the sour orange. And artists, appreciating their beauty and, surely, their association with wealth and high status, soon depicted them in their art, a practice that continues today. (Just visit etsy.com, a marketplace for small independent artists, and type in “citrus art” to see what I mean—today’s search brought up 4,911 results.)

Let’s take a look at some examples of citrus in art across the ages. This article features a photo of a Buddha’s hand citron portrayed strikingly in white jade, from the 18th century (the Buddha’s hand is a very unusual “fingered” citrus, mostly peel, that is highly fragrant and popular in Asian countries). The article also depicts a very old silk painting from the Ming Dynasty, thought to have been painted sometime in the 14th-17th century, that clearly shows a citrus fruit (it looks like a tangerine to me, but the article mentions citron). These are just two examples of citrus’s presence in Asian art, dating back hundreds of years.

Botanical drawings of citrus are often quite beautiful, and may be considered their own category of art. A massive volume describing the known citrus varieties of the time, written by a Jesuit monk in 1646, is treasured for its beautiful engravings of these ancient and often (to our eyes) strange lemons, oranges, citrons, and so on, drawn by many of the great artists working at the time. It is a quite an amazing record—see some of the drawings here.
Banquet Still Life with Mouse by Abraham van Beyeren [wiki]
Flemish still life painting in the 1600s were incredibly lush, detailed, and vibrant, often featuring lavish spreads of fancy tableware and expensive foods, such as lobster. As a costly imported fruit, citrus fruits like lemons and oranges were very frequently featured. The opulent meals on display in these paintings were thought to symbolize both wealth and the fleeting nature of life and our inevitable journey towards death. Take a look at this one, Abraham van Beyeren’s Banquet Still Life, where a half-peeled orange or lemon lounges center stage as if still waiting to be eaten. A journey into this genre of work will reveal many such depictions.

In the 19th century, the impressionist school of painting also participated in the depiction of citrus fruits like oranges and lemons, though in this case it’s doubtful that much symbolism was intended. Instead, the aim was likely simply to portray the beauty of the fruits. Here is Cezanne’s well-known Apples and Oranges, from 1899. Matisse’s Still life with Oranges, from the same year, is rather vague and conceptual, with the painting being more about colors and forms.

Still Life with Parrot by Frida Kahlo [wiki]

Meanwhile, the cubist Pablo Picasso also took his turn at a “still life with oranges.” See what you think of this playful take on the “oranges on a table” tradition, from 1936. And in 1951, surrealist folk artist Frida Kahlo depicted a luscious but strangely sliced orange in her Still life with Parrot. Critics have suggested that the sliced orange may be a symbol for Kahlo herself, who endured many painful surgeries after a near-fatal bus accident.

As for artists inspired by citrus working today, we were intrigued to learn of one current artist who literally works with oranges themselves to create his unique art. Yoshihiro Okada draws a design on the peel of a whole tangerine (leaving no part unused) and removes it carefully to reveal an astonishing piece of citrus peel art—a bird, a fish, a horse, a monkey. It’s a bit like origami, but considerably more magical and difficult. Watch more videos of Okada’ unique artistry here.

With such a rich and varied history across the globe, it’s no wonder that gorgeous, fragrant, and delicious citrus has been inspiring artists for hundreds, even thousands of years. The next time you visit an art museum or gallery, keep your eyes “peeled” for art featuring our favorite fruit.

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