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.

DIY ORANGE SODA


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

Directions:
  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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