Sunday, February 21, 2021

How are Oranges Harvested?

If you are from Florida or have ever driven a long distance through the state, maybe you’ve been lucky enough to pass though some of our beautiful orange groves when they were in blossom. The fragrance of those flowers when they're all in bloom is like nothing else in the world. I’ve even heard it said that it’s what we smell when we enter heaven!

Although the sight of these groves may be familiar to some, few of us are likely to ever have seen an orange grove being harvested. It’s not something you’re likely to catch sight of, in part because workers are quite efficient and it actually happens quite fast. Check out this video of orange pickers at work:

In many ways, citrus picking hasn’t changed all that much from how it’s been done for generations. First we wait until the oranges are ripe and in peak condition, since citrus does not ripen any further once it's off the tree. This isn’t just a matter of “looking” or even of tasting, though of course we do taste the fruit to check on its condition. In fact, this is done using a scientific process. We assess both the sweetness and the acidity of the fruit and determine that ratio is just right.

Out in the Groves

When things are in perfect balance, the pickers go out into the orange groves with ladders, place them against the trees or stand them up near the trees, and quickly remove the ripe fruit, using ladders when needed. Pickers wear special waist or shoulder bags to make it easy to harvest and keep on picking. When a bag of citrus is full, the orange picker empties it into a larger tub or basket, and then small open vehicles (called “goats”) bring the fruit to packinghouses or trucks.

By Hand or With Machines?

In more recent years, innovators have also developed mechanical orange harvesters that shake the fruit off the trees, reducing labor costs. However, these don’t work perfectly in many cases. Orange groves are not like vegetable fields that get replanted every rear; rows and trees may be irregular, and the work is not easy to standardize. Mechanical harvesters can damage the delicate fruit and trees.

Here at Florida Fruit Shippers, our oranges and other citrus are always hand-picked. While mechanical harvesters have their place due to their increased efficiency, beautiful gift oranges, tangerines, honeybells, and grapefruit like ours require a little more tender loving care to keep them in perfect condition. We also want to be able to look over the fruit to make sure it meets our standards. Nothing substitutes for the personal touch.

How to Pick if You Have Your Own Trees

If you’re lucky enough to have your own citrus tree or trees, the process to harvest the fruit goes like this. First you’ll want to make sure that the fruit is ripe; taste a few fruit to make sure they are sweet and juicy. You’ll want to start this as soon as they color up, but also remember that color is not always a good indicator of ripeness with citrus. A little cold weather is said to sweeten citrus, but it can also harm the ripe fruit if it gets too cold, so if you live in an area that freezes, be cautious. You wouldn’t want to lose the whole crop.

To pick, use a gentle twisting motion; you don’t want to “plug” the fruit. What do we mean by “plug”? That’s when the “end” of the orange comes off when you pick and leaves a little hole at the top of the fruit, exposing a little bit of the interior. This isn’t a disaster, but it does mean your fruit won’t keep long.

The biggest problem you may have at harvest as a home grower is reaching the fruit on taller trees. There are special devices for this, but I notice many people just don’t pick those high-up fruit. This isn’t an issue at first (though citrus trees take some time to bear a good crop) but will become one as the tree gets older and bigger.

Don’t feel like “farming” your own, or don’t live somewhere where this is possible? No worries. You can always order some beautiful fresh citrus by the box, crate, or gift basket. The only “picking” you’ll do is picking out your favorite.

Want to be notified when we post more articles? Sign up for our mailing list!

Friday, February 19, 2021

Tea and Oranges: A Classic Pair


“…and she feeds you tea and oranges that come all the way from China…”

If you’re a fan of folk music or remember the ‘60s, you may know these famous lines from Leonard Cohen’s song Suzanne. There’s something about the line that feels mysterious and delightful. Tea and oranges are both simple but wonderful treats that humankind has been enjoying for generations, and there has long been a lucrative worldwide trade in both. In a lot of ways, they just seem to “go” together…and for many years, in many ways, they have.

Oranges, Tea, and...Everything

One can buy tens, hundreds, or perhaps even thousands of loose-leaf teas and tea bags with oranges as one of their flavors, or the primary flavor. One thing I’ve noticed about the sweet, fresh taste and scent of oranges is that they seem to go with almost everything. I have seen tea flavored with orange and: cloves, cinnamon, ginger, passionfruit, peach, lemon, licorice, hibiscus, mint, lemongrass, apple, lavender, vanilla, and schizandra berries (don’t ask me what those are), to name a few.

Healing Powers?

Part of the appeal may be that orange tea feels healing. Orange tea of one variety or another is often suggested as a cure for the common cold, sore throats, the flu, and so one. Orange peel is a natural decongestant and is healthy for us, too—it’s full of micronutrients and antioxidants. To brew a cold-busting orange tea, boil orange peels on the stove and add your choice of other fragrant and health-boosting ingredients, such as garlic, ginger, or turmeric, and serve with honey. Ahhh.

Delicious Orange Tea Treats

Of course, sometimes “tea with oranges” is purely a culinary delight. Have you heard of “Russian tea”? While tea is a major part of Russian culture, the "Russian tea" made popular here in the US doesn’t bear much, if any, resemblance to the strong and often smoky tea consumed in that culture. This cozy hot drink became popular in the southern US in the '60s and '70s and is often associated with church cookbooks and church gatherings; it usually contains black tea, orange juice or orange peel, and spices like cinnamon and cloves. There are even some “instant” versions out there that include Tang! (Remember Tang? Yikes.)

I've learned of another treat that combines jasmine tea with orange juice. Jasmine tea, if you’ve never had it, is a wonderfully delicate tea that combines tea with the indescribably haunting fragrance of jasmine flowers. Made by layering drying tea leaves with jasmine blossoms, the tea is very special. This drink plays off the floral and sweet flavors of the tea, and is served either hot or cold. I can imagine this being really wonderful with freshly squeezed and strained juice.

Let’s not forget about orange iced tea, a classic for good reason. Often associated with the south, this drink may be made by brewing one of the many “orange teas” previously mentioned, by adding fresh orange slices to regular black iced tea, or by combining iced tea with orange juice. Sometimes mint is included to make the flavor even fresher. No matter how you prepare it, the addition of fresh orange flavor to this delicious drink is perfection.

So what’s the story with the “tea and oranges” in Cohen’s song? I was delighted to learn that the tea mentioned is apparently one that my own mother has enjoyed for years, Bigelow’s Constant Comment. Many decades ago, the family behind this tea discovered an old recipe that included orange peel and warm spices, and gave it that name because of the “constant comments” they got on its delicious flavor. The rest, as they say, has been history for this classic pair.

Want to be notified when we post more articles? Sign up for our mailing list!

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions with Healthy Citrus


Every January, about 50% of us make New Year’s resolutions…and of those, a high percentage are about eating healthier and getting shape. I know I’ve made my share of these over the years. As for this year, with COVID-19 going on? Yikes…no comment on the need, and the reasons for it!

The problem with resolutions like these is that we all start out with great intentions, but life has a habit of getting in the way. For change to really happen, we have to break habits and build new ones. This can be really hard because we’re so used to our old ways.

How to Make it Work  

So how can we make it work? According to experts, one method is to avoid focusing so much on those big, long-term outcomes. Instead, once you’ve got a goal in mind, try putting your effort into simpler daily tasks.

So, let’s say your New Year’s resolution is to turn your bad eating habits around and lose 30 pounds. That’s great, but lofty, and will take a while to achieve. You may get discouraged along the way because the “mountain” is hard to climb. To make your goal more manageable, aim for some simpler daily steps. One new habit you could try is to eat one more serving of fruit every day.

Fruit: A Weight Loss Helper

Did you know fruit may be able to help you lose weight, while also being really healthy for you? Of course, for those of us with a sweet tooth, it’s easy to see how fruit provides natural sweetness without all the issues of refined sugar.

But there’s more to it than that. Fruit is nutrient-dense, meaning it’s high in fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants, while also being low in calories. Its high fiber and water content can help us feel full and assist in weight control. In fact, oranges and other citrus are especially good at this! They score high on something called the “satiety index” that rates how filling a food is compared to its caloric value.

If we may be so bold, it’s citrus season right now. Why not try making some easy and delicious habit change by eating more of this healthy, satiating fruit? We do have one piece of advice: stick to the whole fruit. Juice does not have the same benefits due to its lack of healthy fiber. We’re sharing some ideas and recipes below. Happy New Year!

Eat Healthy This New Year with Citrus: Here’s How

--Pair a tangerine with a hardboiled egg for a total power snack

--Broil a grapefruit with a bit of brown sugar and top with creamy Greek yogurt for a healthy dessert 

--Top your salad with orange or tangerine sections and almonds and increase its nutrition and flavor

--Dip orange or tangerine sections in a bit of melted dark chocolate for an easy and healthy dessert

--Serve a multi-citrus salad with supremed citrus of all kinds and a mint dressing

--Enjoy delicious fresh seafood served with citrus salsa   

--Top Greek yogurt with citrus sections, chopped pistachios and cardamon

--Enjoy these delicious and beautiful shrimp-grapefruit-avocado skewers 

--Delight in a healthy quinoa salad with chicken, and citrus 

--Serve fresh citrus fennel slaw on the side with your meal 

--Spread a whole grain cracker with low fat cheese and top with an orange section


Want to be notified when we post more articles? Sign up for our mailing list!

Friday, January 15, 2021

How Many Fruit Can You Recognize on This Citrus Trivia Quiz?


Sure, you love eating oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, and other citrus…but do you know “who’s who” in the citrus world? Can you pick your favorite out of a “lime-up”? (Sorry.) “Orange” you wondering if you can guess? (Sorry again.) Try your hand at this "Who's Who of Citrus" and see how you score!

1. Here are some clues for Citrus Mystery #1:

  • --All the trees of this variety in the world are genetically identical. (Talk about wonder twin powers.)
  • --Every single fruit has another “baby” fruit inside it!
  • --This is the most most popular “eating” orange in the world.

So....which fruit is this?

A.) The Valencia orange B.) The Kardashian orange C.) The navel orange

2. Now on to Citrus Mystery Guest #2. This fruit...

  • --Has an extra appendage that sticks out
  • --Is SO juicy that it's sometimes sold with a bib!
  • --Is rarely, if ever, seen in Northern grocery stores

Who are we talking about here?

A.) The Honeybell B.) The tangerine C.) The Ugli fruit

3. Moving on to #3! This fruit is a fun one.

  • --They contain super-high levels of antioxidants, so they’re extra good for you
  • --But be careful! Their brightly colored juice can stain hands or clothing.
  • --Some people say they taste like strawberries

Is this....

 A.) The blood orange B.) The kumquat C.) The ruby red grapefruit

4. How about #4? This one is a popular favorite.

  • --They're named after a city in Morocco
  • --Their name is also the name of a movie, a font, a type of software, and a Led Zeppelin song, among other things
  • --Many "in the know" consider their juice more delicious than OJ, though it is harder to find
What fruit is this?

A.) The tangelo B) The tangerine C.) The Casablanca

5. Here's a popular citrus whose origin you might not know. Can you guess it?

  • --They were first brought to Florida by a mysterious count who claimed to have grown up with Napoleon and sailed the high seas with pirates!
  • --The juice is said to harmonize well with nutmeg
  • --There is some slight evidence that they can be useful as a weight loss aid

 Which fruit came here with the count?

 A.) The grapefruit B.) The lemon C.) The lime

6. Next! Who's this famous fruit?

  • --At certain points in history, they have been incredibly expensive!
  • --People have been eating these since ancient Rome

  • --A tree can live more than 100 years

 Which legendary fruit are we talking about?

A.) The navel orange B.) The lemon C.) The Temple orange

7. Here's one that might stump some of you. 

  • --This fruit is always eaten with the peel on!
  • --Its name comes from the Cantonese word for “golden”
  • --It's sometimes eaten pickled

 What's this unusual citrus?

A.) The kumquat B.) The Honeybell C.) The limequat

8.  We're getting into some citrus trivia now. Who knows this one?

  • --Tangerines are a subtype of this variety of fruit, as are many other kinds of small, juicy, easy-to-peel citrus
  • --Named after the color of a certain kind of robe
  • --Ever eaten canned oranges? They were probably this variety
This is a harder one...can you get it right?

A.) The Kimono orange  B.) The Page orange C.) The Mandarin orange

9. Some of you have probably never heard of this quirky citrus fruit.

  • --It is almost never eaten out of hand
  • --Instead, it's highly valued for its juice, used to flavor tea, perfume, and candy
  • --This “orange” ripens yellow

 Got any ideas?

A.) The Bergamot orange B.) The Cara Cara orange C.) The Fuzzy Navel

10. This is a fruit you've probably eaten, but may not know much about.

  • --They got their name from an owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team
  • --They're a very delicious snacking fruit
  • --They were once known as the “$10 a box orange” due to their reasonable price

Another tricky one.

A.) The Hamlin orange B.) The Mandarin orange C.) The Temple Orange


1: C 2: A 3: A 4: B 5: A 6: B 7: A 8: C 9: A 10: C


0-3 correct:  Hmm. Are you allergic to oranges? 

4-6 correct: Decent work...but we recommend some more citrus baskets. 

7-8 correct: Strong performance. You know your kumquats from your limequats.  

9-10 correct: Hey, do you work here? Great job! 



Want to be notified when we post more articles? Sign up for our mailing list!

© 1996-2013 Vegetable Kingdom Inc., PO Box 530456, St. Petersburg, FL 33747 All rights reserved.
Florida Fruit Shippers® is a registered trademark of Vegetable Kingdom Inc.