Tuesday, December 20, 2022

'Tis the Season for the Senses (with Citrus)!

 Ahhh, the holidays: a feast for the senses! The sights, smells, tastes, sounds and textures of this time of the year are nothing short of delightful.  Here at Florida Fruit Shippers, where citrus fruits are always on our minds, we'd like to invite you on a tour of the senses this holiday season...citrus-style!


Who doesn't love the bright hues of citrus? From the rich orange hue of a Sol Zest Mandarin (available for only two more weeks) to the scrumptious flesh of a Deep Red Grapefruit or Cara Cara Red Navel (which, by the way, is about to come into season), citrus brightens up a home, office, or lunchbox. Set a bowl of oranges, mandarins, and grapefruits out on your dining room table for an instant hit of colorful, edible d├ęcor. Place a few wedges of Honeybells on the side of a pasta dish, or on top of a salad, for a pop of inviting color. Grate some zest into muffins, cakes, frostings, and breads instead of using artificially-colored sprinkles; orange rind retains its bright hue even after cooking!


The aromatherapy world has a lot to say about the smells of oranges and grapefruits. The natural, essential oils found in their rinds are packed with aromatic compounds that have been shown to lift the spirit, relieve stress, reduce anxiety, energize the mind, help alleviate pain, and they even have clinically-quantified antidepressant effects. And here's a fun fact that may be helpful if you're single and seeking a male partner on New Year's Eve: studies have shown that if you smell like a grapefruit, men perceive you to be six years younger than your chronological age! Alas, this trick doesn't work on women for some reason, but if you're seeking a paramour of the male persuasion, consider squeezing a few drops of fresh grapefruit juice on your neck or rubbing some grapefruit zest on your pulse points.


Taste is the sense we most associate with our fresh-off-the tree produce. After all, fresh citrus is both mouthwatering and delicious! According to experts, oranges and mandarins can have the following taste characteristics: sweet, sweet-tart, sweet-sour. Grapefruits, by comparison, tend to be much more tart or sour, with some slight bitterness and less sweetness. In general, all citrus types have some combination of sweet and tart/sour/bitter thanks to a combination of fruit sugars and citric acid.


What is the sound of a citrus fruit? No, this question is not meant to be a Zen koan. However, if you get into a quiet and mindful state while eating a piece of citrus fruit, you might notice the unique soft tones of removing the tender peel off of a mandarin, the liquidy release of a grapefruit segment as you scoop in your spoon, or the satisfying sound of a knife slicing a navel into serving wedges. And of course, we all know the satisfying sounds of kids (and even grownups) slurping up a juicy piece of fruit!


One of the very interesting things about citrus fruits is the contrast between the textures of their rinds and flesh. A wonderful activity to do with kids is to feel the bumpiness of an orange rind, describe it, and then compare it to the smooth and slippery feeling of the inside of the fruit. If there are seeds as in some citrus varieties, you can notice those too, describing the characteristics of each unique component of the fruit. While you're at it, invite your kids (or yourself) to do a mindfulness exercise with all five senses as you prepare to enjoy your fruit: What does the outside rind feel like? What color is it? Does it have a smell? What does it sound like to peel or slice your fruit? What color is the inside? What does it feel like? What does it smell like? And finally, the moment we've all been waiting for: how does it taste?  If it's from Florida Fruit Shippers, you can be sure it will be delicious!

May your senses alight this holiday season. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year, from all of us!


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Sunday, December 11, 2022

Add a Little Sol Zest to Your Life!

With the December holidays and shipping deadlines coming up very quickly, we like to help you think of fresh and unique gift ideas, fast! This time of year is exciting, but can also be taxing. How to reckon with keeping both your gift ideas and your energy levels feeling fresh, bright, and vibrant? 

Enter Sol Zest mandarins.

What are Sol Zest Mandarins?

Directly translated, "Sol Zest" means "Sun Zest." And what an apt name that is! Originally from the Jaffa region of Israel, they grow and ripen in bright, sunny climates just like here in Florida, literally harvesting the warmth and nourishment of the sun in their zest (rind) and flesh. While they have long been in Israel and are new to Florida, their genesis is not entirely clear. Many sources say that they are a hybrid between a Temple Orange and the Dancy Tangerine. However, this may be an oversimplified definition, as many hybrids were tested over a thirty year period to produce the Sol Zest we can enjoy today, and which many consider to be the ultimate mandarin. 

Kid-Friendly Citrus

Speaking of rinds, Sol Zest mandarins are incredibly easy to peel, making them an convenient treat for kids and adults alike. They are also seedless, tender, vibrantly orange colored, low-acid, sweet, and juicy (but not too juicy), making Sol Zest mandarins even more a-peeling to picky young eaters! They are the perfect size to throw into a bag or lunchbox; because of their easy-peel nature, lack of seeds, long shelf life, and other qualities, they are one of the easiest and tidiest citrus varieties to take on the go.

Sol Zest or Orri?

Sol Zest Mandarins have a few other names: Jaffa Orri, Orri Mandarin, Orri Tangerine, and Jaffa Mandarin.  The word "orri" is a version of the Hebrew word for "light," which is perfect for the season. When this remarkable fruit became licensed to growers in the United States so that Florida Fruit Shippers could offer them to you, the name "Sol Zest" was born, and some growers refer to them as Sol Zest Tangerines. In the citrus world, tangerines and mandarins are interchangeable terms. Just like oranges, these citrus varieties boast a whole slew of nutritional benefits such as high fiber, high antioxidant properties, and concentrated levels of vitamin C.

Bring On the Brix

The sweetness of fruit is determined by a unit called its degrees brix. As a fruit ripens, its ratio of sugar to fruit increases, and the amount of that sugar determines the sweetness of the fruit. To determine the degrees brix of a fruit, a small drop of juice from the flesh of the fruit is placed on a refractometer, pictured above. The reading on the refractometer is the number that determines the fruit's sweetness. Sol Zest mandarins consistently have a reading of 15 or higher, which is considered to be a mouth-watering level!

Ready to give the rare and wonderful treat of Sol Zest mandarins....and try some for yourself?  The growing season is very short and you won't find them in stores; they are only available here through early January. 



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