Monday, March 30, 2020

The World's Fanciest Fruit


What culture most appreciates fruit? This is a hard question to answer. Humans have loved fruit since …well, since before we were human. Many cultures and nations have a fruit that is absolutely central to their identity. Think of dates in the middle East, mangoes in India, kiwis in New Zealand, the wine grapes of Europe, and so on. The orange is, of course, the state fruit of Florida. It's key to who we are here! 

You Paid What for That Melon?

But there is one country that truly venerates fruit in a special and unusual way, and that is Japan. In this island nation, fruit isn’t just enjoyed; it is adored. Both taste and appearance are extremely important to Japanese fruit-lovers--and they pay top dollar for fruit that they consider perfect. When we say top dollar, we're talking $30 for an apple, $250 for a mango, and up to thousands of dollars for one melon.

In Japanese culture, very special fruit like this is often given as a gift--a sign of respect and appreciation. It may be delivered as a housewarming present, brought to a party, or sent to someone who is ill. You might also buy it for yourself as an indulgent “just for me” experience. In a way, it’s similar to fancy chocolates or a very nice bottle of wine. Not only that, the purchasing experience is very enjoyable—the stores resemble jewelry stores, with the food gorgeously displayed and lit up. It's really quite incredible!

Japan's Citrus Culture



Of course, not every piece of fruit eaten in Japan’s fruit-loving culture is at quite this level of luxury. Did you know that Japan is a very citrus-oriented society? In fact, the country’s relatively mild climate is very well-suited to growing citrus. Citrus has also been a key part of Japan’s light and delicate cuisine for centuries.  

There are literally hundreds of special varieties of Japanese citrus. The best region for growing citrus is around the Seto Inland Sea, a protected bay with beautiful scenery and stunning mountain views. But Floridians would find they recognize the familiar dark green leaves and sweet-smelling flowers of citrus trees all over the nation. Here are just a few of Japan’s most loved and interesting citrus varieties.

Banpeiyu
The banpeiyu is a type of pomelo (similar to a grapefruit) with a mild and tangy flavor. These are notable due to the large size—up to 10 pounds! It is traditional to float these on hot baths.

Mikan
The mikan is the most popular eating citrus in Japan. Here in the US, you may know it as a satsuma. These fruits are very sweet, mostly seedless, cold-hardy, and easy to peel.  They’re much like a tangerine.

Beni-madonna
The beni-madonna is a new, fancy luxury orange designed to be delightfully sweet-sour and succulent for a wonderful dessert eating experience. The flesh is very soft and lush.

Yuzu
The Yuzu is hugely important to Japanese savory cuisine and has a special tart flavor that is quite unlike other citrus. Yuzu juice is often combined with soy sauce in savory dishes.
Yuzu martini


Dekopon
The dekopon has a big bump or bell at the top, and resembles a honeybell. Although it's also a seedless, easy-peeling, sweet fruit, it is not a tangelo and has a different parentage.

There is much more to learn and know about the history of citrus and citrus cuisine in Japan and the amazing story of Japan’s beautiful gift fruit.  Explore and find out more: OishiSo Japan: Citrus 

Although we don’t spend thousands on a melon in this country, it is still true that we consider sending beautiful and delicious gift fruit a wonderfully polite and pleasing way to honor and thank others. There’s a reason this tradition endures and crosses national boundaries. Consider a fruit gift from Florida Fruit Shippers today.



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Friday, March 13, 2020

What is an Orangery?


If you’re fortunate enough to live in Florida, then you probably know that citrus trees don’t just produce delicious fruit—they’re absolutely beautiful. The leaves are “classic” in appearance (shiny and dark green) and the trees can be sculpted and pruned into attractive shapes. Not only that, the lovely little flowers give forth a heavenly fragrance when they bloom. Then there’s the rich and gorgeous appearance of the oranges when they come along.

So is it any wonder that throughout history, the wealthy and refined among us have taken to growing oranges and other citrus in their homes and gardens—and even to spending vast amounts of money in order to keep these plants alive indoors?

Indeed, some of the most resplendent palaces of all time have featured special greenhouses dedicated exclusively to growing citrus. These structures are known as orangeries.

The History of Orangeries


In the 17th through 19th centuries, as citrus became a popular and prestigious fruit, orangeries became popular among the European aristocracy. These elaborate heated glass structures would be filled with small citrus trees, other types of fruit trees (such as banana and pomegranate trees) and tropical plants such as orchids. The orangery allowed homeowners to grow and keep plants that could not otherwise survive cooler climates, while also providing a beautiful, sunny retreat that made winter more bearable. It might even feature a fountain, statuary, and seating.

Many orangeries also featured an elaborate “outdoor garden” as well, sometimes with a traditional maze. Some of these buildings and gardens can still be visited today. Notable examples still stand in the UK, Austria, Germany, and Sweden, among others.  One extremely famous and incredibly spectacular orangery can still be seen at Louis XIV’s Palace of Versailles in Paris. In the United States, George Washington grew lemons and oranges in a large orangery; though it burned down in 1835, it has been reconstructed, and a copy can be toured today.
Hanbury Hall,  Worcestershire,Orangery and Mushroom House, 2016, DeFacto, CC BY-SA 4.0


Orangeries Today


It is still possible to build an orangery today, and today we also have the technology to make these additions much more energy efficient. However, it is inarguable that they remain a luxury. Those of us living in warmer climates would likely instead choose to simply grow citrus outdoors. Indeed, many climates will permit the keeping of potted dwarf citrus; in winter, bring the plants indoors, but be sure to keep them in a very sunny area for best results.



Citrus such as oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes, and tangerines are not just delicious, but possess a magical allure. The trees are so beautiful, their scent so intoxicating, and the fruit so delectable that it’s no wonder that the very rich and powerful couldn’t help but want to have their very own personal supply at a time when the supply from overseas could be unreliable and costly. No expense was spared to keep citrus close to hand, rather like a demanding pet.

These days, it is fortunately much easier to purchase fresh and perfect citrus reliably by mail. Try some of our orangeshoneybells, grapefruit, or tangerines today—fit for a king, but for sale to all of us.

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Friday, February 28, 2020

Peeling Your Orange...Are You Doing it Wrong?


As grown adults, there are certain things that we feel confident that we know how to do, generally because we’ve been doing them for so long. Tying our shoes? Check. Making toast? Handled. Brushing teeth? Got it figured out. Peeling an orange? Yup.

Well…hold up a minute. Did you know that  in some people's opinion, the simple act of peeling an orange is not as simple as you think? Folks have some interesting ideas about alternate ways to go about this process. What you don’t know—and may have never even thought about! —may surprise you.



This video shows two "new" methods. In what I call the “roll it out” method, you simply slice the “north and south pole” ends off your orange, then slice into the orange and “roll out" the sections. 

Well, this is one of those tricks that works better on YouTube than in real life. I tried this method, and it pretty much failed with a tighter-skinned Valencia. It was okay with a looser-skinned mandarin, but they’re so easy to peel anyway that I don’t really get the point.

In the second, "cap" method, you score an orange around the equator, then slip a spoon or your thumb in to remove each half’s peel, like a cap. You can then place this peel “cap” back on. This  might be a cool way to send a whole orange in a lunch for a child who doesn’t know how to peel an orange or doesn’t like to peel them. But why not just peel and section like usual? The cap is cute, but I don't know how worth it this is.



Ever wanted to peel your orange in one long spiral piece? This video makes it look easier than it is, and my orange squirted me a little, but it does look really cool.

And this guy likes making his orange peels into little section "bowls" for the fruit. It's useful in some cases, perhaps, like when hiking?



One issue I see with most of these methods is that they tend to leave more pith behind on the fruit than “regular peeling.” (Of course, this will only happen if you are using fruit with significant pith. Some citrus, like mandarin oranges, have very little.) 

This brings me to some other “orange consumption” methods. Of course, pretty much all of us know that you can just take a whole orange and slice it into nice juicy sections with the peel on. Kids usually love this!


 Here’s a small refinement on that method that I use; I think it really make the slices super appealing (or is that a-peeling? Sorry).

Finally, there’s the ultimate way to remove citrus of all its “bits and parts”—supreming. This process has been around a very long time. It is really a great way to enjoy perfectly luscious citrus sections, devoid of any peel, pith, or fiber. If you want to try it, here’s a step-by-step tutorial using grapefruit.

And a video:



Welll, huh. Does this seem like a too much fuss about the simple act of orange peeling? I kind of think so too.  It's just not that complicated!

Fortunately, here at Florida Fruit Shippers, the majority of the fruit we sell is very easy to peel. That’s on purpose! As a seller of prime eating fruit, we know what folks like, and they like fruit that peels up nicely, like our premium Navels. So don’t worry too much about any of these fancy tricks. Though you can make your peel into a little “fruit cap” if you want to, that’s just for fun.

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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 reddit.com/r/ShowerOrange 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

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
--Grapefruits
--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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