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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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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