Wednesday, March 29, 2023

The Delicious Flavors of Spring Citrus


Ahhh, spring! Temperatures are warming and the air is pleasant. Here in Florida, we are enjoying bug-free warm days and cool evenings, and a lack of hurricanes. The orange and jasmine blossoms are popping out, wafting sweet scents into the air. Both Easter and Passover are right around the corner, and so are the final weeks of citrus season until the Fall. Here at Florida Fruit Shippers, we wanted to make sure you get the best of the season's final picks for spring: Cara Cara Red Oranges, Navel Oranges, Easy Peel Tangerines, and Ruby Red Grapefruit. It's fruit salad time! 

Cara Caras

Want to make your dishes pop with color? The Cara Cara, also known as the Ruby Red or Scarlet Navel Orange, is your citrus of choice. They were first discovered in the 1970's in Venezuela at a place called Hacienda Cara Cara, and are now grown in Florida and California. Their bright red-orange flesh carries notes of strawberry and cranberry, and the extra carotenes that give the pulp such a deep hue carry a whole lot of lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant. In fact, regular consumption of high-lycopene foods has been shown to help prevent heart disease, prostate cancer, and vision loss. If you "cara cara" about your health, this seedless, easy-to-peel, delicious orange is for you! 

Navel Oranges

Navel Oranges have recently been the subject of a study by the University of Florida as research is developed to grow the best, healthiest, and sweetest fruit in their growing regions. It was discovered that the unique sweetness of this fruit is due to the higher organic content of the soil in the navel orange groves of both Florida and California, with the latter oranges having the longest season, through late May. So what is that "navel," anyway?  As it turns out, the navel oranges we eat today are exact clones of a single mutated orange that was discovered on a sour orange tree in Brazil by a Presbyterian missionary in the mid nineteenth century. The missionary was so intrigued by this odd and delicious orange with a tiny "baby" orange inside (the navel) that he propagated some little trees from a cutting. Over time, as more and more were propagated throughout growing regions in the Americas, navel oranges became a household standard.

Easy Peel Tangerines

While all citrus fruits are perfect for on-the-go snacking that comes in self-contained packaging, nothing can beat a variety that is easy to peel! It doesn't get easier than our tangerines, whose season continues through May. This particular type of tangerine--the FallGlo--is larger in size than most other varieties, though still identifiable by their distinct tangerine shape. This is because they are actually a genetic cross that is 5/8 tangerine, 1/4 orange, and 1/8 grapefruit!  In addition to easy snacking, these tangerines are easy to juice and have a richer flavor than traditional orange juice. 

Ruby Red Grapefruits
Nature creates mutations all the time. In the case of citrus, "spontaneous mutations" are particularly common and very natural due to the fragile genomes of these unique fruit types. Lucky for us, some of the yummier and more colorful citrus mutations in our history were discovered and propagated, such as the Navel Orange and the Ruby Red Grapefruit. In the 1800's, yellow and white grapefruits were grown in Florida and Texas, but were considered by most to be too sour. In 1929, a sweet mutation was discovered with red flesh, which was then propagated (via grafting a cutting onto another type of citrus tree) to create a regular supply of the beloved, sweeter Ruby Red Grapefruit that people enjoy regularly today. Best of all, unlike their white counterparts the Ruby Reds have a very high lycopene content and have been shown to help reduce cholesterol levels in humans.

So stock up on your end-of-season citrus and enjoy their health benefits and deliciousness through the spring!


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Saturday, March 18, 2023

Daylight Savings Got You Down? Try Citrus!

Just last week, we were beginning to adjust to the longer days coming out of winter. But then, wham! Daylight Savings Time (DST) required us all to "spring forward"--aka set our clocks ahead--by one hour. If you're like the rest of us, you may still be adjusting to the jetlag-like effects of having our whole routine thrust one hour ahead, complete with the noticeable change in the times of sunrise and sunset. Combined with the ever-lengthening days as we greet the Spring Equinox, this adjustment may take awhile. Fortunately, we at Florida Fruit Shippers have some citrus-based solutions to help make your "DST Effect"--the jetlag you experience with the sudden time change--a little easier, so that you can once again sleep well at night and feel energized with the new time of the rising morning sun.

DST Effect Versus Jetlag

We all know what it feels like to wake up from a poor sleep: despite getting a few hours in, the whole day feels difficult to meet, and we often feel sluggish and compromised at work. While the DST (Daylight Savings Time) Effect is often called "social jetlag," it is actually different than jetlag because in the latter case, our bodies recognize the natural cues of the sun, thereby allowing us the ability to adapt in a more natural way. In the case of the DST Effect, we are being asked to keep our schedules the same while the time of sunrise and sunset are offset by a full hour in either direction. Research has shown this effect to be more stressful on the body than jetlag, as it forces us to adapt to unnatural rhythms. Hence, we experience more nights of poor sleep and more days of sluggishness, reduced concentration, lack of energy, and even--in some cases--depression.

Bring On the Tangelos

It's a good thing that Spring Tangelos are in season, because contained in these palm-sized, easy-to-peel fruits is a powerhouse of DST Effect-busting nutrition!  Tangelos are a unique cross between tangerines and grapefruits, and as such they are loaded with all the things a compromised, tired body needs: hydration, vitamin C, antioxidants, and minerals. They can also increase the amount of melatonin in our body by 47 percent, and contain B vitamins which help you sleep by reducing depression and anxiety, readjusting the sleep/wake schedule, and aiding in the production of the main sleep-inducing hormones such as dopamine, serotonin, and GABA. Combined with their anti-inflammatory and gut-cleansing properties to help offset the physical stress of the DST Effect, eating a couple of tangelos per day will, amazingly, help you feel more energized during waking hours and better able to sleep at the sudden "new" time instigated by Daylight Savings.

What About Other Types of Citrus?

Typically, in-season citrus fruits like Spring Tangelos are the most nutrient-dense, namely because they are fresher and more packed with fresh-off-the-tree hydration and bioactive compounds. That being said, other types of citrus such as ruby red grapefruitsnavel oranges, and tangerines are still available, and Florida Fruit Shippers would never ship any fruit that isn't fresh from the groves! If you want to maximize the DST Effect counteracting powers of your fruits and eat fruits with the most concentrated nutrition in general, avoid grocery store citrus that has been subject to more transportation and time in boxes and on the shelves. This scenario amounts to more time away from their source trees and the resulting weakening of their bioactive compounds.

The clock may be springing forward, but you can spring back from the DST Effect with a little help from Florida citrus!


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Friday, February 24, 2023

Here's the SCOOP on Citrus Rinds!

We all love to eat oranges and grapefruits, and there are many different ways of getting to the tasty insides: we can peel them with our fingers, peel them carefully with a knife, cut the fruit into quarters or wedges, cut the fruit in half and pare out each individual section, etc.  No matter what methods we use, the common goal is to get past the rind to get to the "good stuff": the delicious pulp inside. Typically, the rind ends up in the garbage or compost bin. But wait! With Spring Tangelos being picked and getting ready for free shipping and grapefruits fresh off the trees, we here at Florida Fruit Shippers have the "scoop" on maximizing your fruit to the fullest, and that includes the rinds. So don't toss those peels!

This blog is the first of two installments on how to best use your rinds. This first one will hone in on the natural bowl that is created when you cut your fruit in half, allowing for a number of creative and useful household solutions.

Fruit That Will Bowl You Over

Spring is about to be sprung, and with that comes the onset of fruit salad season. Traditionally, fruit salad is a straightforward process: slice up a variety of fruits and toss them together in a mixing bowl, distribute to smaller bowls or cups, and serve. While any combination of fruits will do, make sure you have oranges and/or grapefruits mixed in well as the ascorbic acid that occurs naturally in citrus prevents the other fruits from browning. But what if the bowl is a fruit too?  With one extra easy step, the only serving ware you will have to worry about is the cutlery, or you can eat with your fingers! Simply slice your orange and/or grapefruit (for a slightly bigger bowl) in half and scoop out the pulp carefully. Voila: the remaining rind is a perfect one-serving-sized bowl for your fruit salad. Toss your fruits together in a mixing bowl and distribute to your citrus rind bowls.  Serve with a side of cream or dollop of yogurt, a sprig of mint, and compost your bowl when you are done. Or, if your bowl is still in good shape, rinse it well and use it for the next tip:

Freshen Up Your Refrigerator

Oranges are natural air fresheners. They do a wonderful job of neutralizing garbage and old food smells, and a common trick is to throw some orange peels and ice cubes in your garbage disposal and turn it on. In additions to odor neutralization, the rind "bowls" we talked about can also be used as refrigerator deodorizers. After you make your orange rind bowl and enjoy the pulp, fill the bowl with household salt and tuck it away in the back of your fridge. Any lingering food odors will be neutralized and your refrigerator and its contents will smell fresh and inviting every time you open the door. This tip is actually used by the national house cleaning service, Merry Maids.
Light Up Your Life

Oranges and grapefruits are popular scents for candles, lotions, and essential oils because they have uplifting, energizing, and comforting aromatherapy benefits.  They can also be pricey, which is ironic because citrus rinds can actually serve as candles themselves!  For this DIY use of a rind bowl, you will need to be very careful to not scoop out the center stem piece, as that will serve as the wick. Fill the bowl with olive oil or vegetable oil, and light the "wick" (the center stem piece). It may take a bit longer to catch the flame than on a traditional candle. Once lit, your citrus bowl candle will burn for four to five hours.

Citrus is the perfect spring fruit. It makes you feel healthy inside and out, and every bit of the fruit can be used for healthy living, inside and out. Next week, we'll explore even more springtime uses for citrus rinds, including ways to revitalize your taste buds and brighten your home, so that you can enjoy your fruits with maximum "a-peel."


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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Hair's Some Great Advice: Use Oranges!

We all know that oranges are wonderful to eat, but did you know they are also a top shelf beauty product? We spoke with Aliyah, a 23-year old from Tampa Bay, about her hair care journey and how she came to discover that oranges were the answer to practically all of her hair challenges!  

About Aliyah

Aliyah (pictured here) is a warm, energetic, and outgoing young woman, described by her friends (myself included) as a "ray of sunshine." She has a gift for storytelling and making people laugh out loud. She is also a Brazilian samba and belly dancer who works as the "studio godmother" at the very successful Hip Expressions Belly Dance Studio in St. Petersburg, Florida. She loves nature, and time and again has turned to natural solutions for health, beauty, and wellness. Growing up in sunny Florida, citrus is very familiar to her, and she even had an orange tree in the backyard of her family home. Florida Fruit Shippers conducted this "juicy" interview to learn more about her "mane" beauty secret: oranges!

FFS: Thanks for doing this interview, Aliyah!

Aliyah: (upbeat laughter) Sure!

FFS: Can you please tell us about your hair type?

Aliyah: I have what's called category 3C hair.  Not super tight coils, but not loose at all, either. It's an awkward in-between type. I have really low porosity so it's hard for my hair to retain moisture. I've also had a lifelong battle with anemia which causes dandruff and really dry hair and skin because I'm not getting enough blood flow to my body. 

FFS: What are some challenges with taking care of your hair? 

Aliyah: Dryness is the main thing. I can grow my hair, but dandruff and hair loss have been big problems. I spent a lot of time navigating medicated and natural hair products that are very expensive, and they only helped a little. At a certain point I started doing things myself, starting with using mayonnaise on my hair. It worked pretty well, so I thought: "Huh! Food can be really great for my hair!" So then I made an avocado mask with berries and essential oils. That was pretty good too. One day when I was about seventeen, I got a trim from my hairstylist and I told her about my experimenting with food on my hair. She told me that she uses oranges to help her grow her baby hairs and it really worked...and it's also good for the dry hair and dandruff.  So I gave it a try and it got me results!

FFS: How do you use them? 

Aliyah: So I went and bought oranges, and sliced them up.  I do this hair washing process: two shampoos, conditioner, deep conditioner, then a leave in conditioner. My hairstylist recommended that I do the orange slices directly on my scalp after the first shampoo. I part my hair into four sections and work the oranges in by scrubbing them into my scalp. Then I rinse and do the second shampoo. She said oranges are also a natural conditioner so I could theoretically leave out conditioning steps, but I still condition. I used them on a regular basis starting in high school and really noticed a difference: my dryness improved and the dandruff totally ended. It became part of my routine and now my beauty supplies are fruits! Also, your hair smells amazing afterwards and lasts most of the day. I seal my moisture in with coconut oil, which also holds in the orange fragrance. I always get compliments when I do this routine.

FFS: How about your skin?

Aliyah: I also use Vitamin C on my face for skin care, and make sure I eat foods rich in Vitamin C. Once I made orange oil right from fresh oranges. Orange juice is my daily juice with my eggs in the morning.It helps with my minor B12 deficiency and overall health.  And of course I eat oranges too! 

The Proof is In the Pulp. And the Peel.

Aliyah's success with oranges is no surprise when it comes to the biochemistry of these wonder fruits. Vitamin C, rich in the pulp that Aliyah scrubs directly onto her scalp,  is a powerful antioxidant that has the power to increase collagen production and moisture in the skin and hair. In addition to Aliyah's routine, you can also save your orange peels and boil them to make an infusion. Let it sit for one day, and then use it as a final rinse for your hair and even your skin after bathing. If you wish, you can add apple cider vinegar for extra shine. To combat dandruff, you can also add a cup of plain yogurt to the infusion, blend well, and let it sit on your hair and scalp for up to several hours before rinsing.

For best results, use premium oranges, including the delicious and easy-to-peel Temple Oranges that are shipping free this month from Florida Fruit Shippers, to get glowing skin and hair, inside and out!


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Wednesday, January 18, 2023

What Is Your Citrus Zodiac?

Do you love horoscopes? How about a citrus horoscope? For today's blog, we thought we'd help you "squeeze the day" with a "juicy" take on the horoscope: your citrus zodiac sign!

Citrus with the Stars

No, this is not a play on "Dancing with the Stars"...we are referring to literal stars, as in the bright vortexes of light energy and planets in the sky. Since the times of the ancient Greeks, the alignment of the stars and their influence on our lives and characteristics have been a source of wonder, fascination and extensive study. What we know today as western astrology was probably born about 1,800 years ago, when the mathematician and astronomer Ptolemy published something called the Tetrabiblos. It documented various constellations according to one's position on the Earth in thirty degree sectors. The field of astrology was based on the principle that one's life can be directly influenced by the relative alignment of these celestial bodies at the time, date, and location of your birth. In addition to your main astrological sign, known as the sun sign, everyone also has a moon sign and a rising sign.

Not surprisingly, since all factors play into astrology and your horoscope, the foods you eat are related to your sun, moon, and rising signs. Since the citrus we grow here at Florida Fruit Shippers is filled with sunshine, we have hand-picked (pun intended) the best type of citrus fruit for your astrological sun sign! 

Your Citrus Zodiac

Aries: Red Grapefruit

Aries (born March 21-April 19) is the beginning of the Zodiac calendar, and a fire sign. Their symbol is a  ram, and as such they tend to take on new projects and challenges head-on. Aries tend to be full of life, and love to start the day with good energy and zest. As such, your best citrus fruit is the red grapefruit, with its juicy red pulp, immune-promoting polyphenols, and energy-boosting Vitamin C levels. 

Taurus: Honeybells

Taurus (born April 20 to May 20) is an earth sign that was recognized as a constellation even by the ancient Mesopotamians, about 4,000 years ago. Its symbol is the bull. Due to their bull nature, Taurus folks can be a bit stubborn and late to ripen, but when they do, there are many rewards. As such, your fruit is the Honeybell, which has ripened late this year due to the storms and cold weather this year in Florida, and as such the fruits (and you) are sweeter than ever this year!

Gemini: Navel Oranges

Gemini (born May 21 to June 21) is an air sign that hearkens the beginning of warmer days. Its symbol is the twins. Geminis tend to be able to adapt to most situations, and are flexible and adaptable. What better way to acknowledge versatility and adaptability than with the navel orange? Like their human counterparts, you can take them anywhere and they fit in well.

Cancer: Temple Oranges   

original zodiacCancer (born June 22 to July 22) is a water sign whose symbol is the crab. By their very nature, those with this sign tend to be nurturing and caring, and can have a healthy but slightly corny sense of humor. Crabs have a shell and a soft, sweet center, just like the easy-to-peel rind of the temple orange.

Leo: Cara Cara

Leo (born July 23 to August 22), is another fire sign represented by the lion. Leos are bold and passionate by nature, so what better citrus fruit to represent them than the fiery red navel orange, also known as the scarlet navel orange or cara cara? While Leos can be dramatic, like the cara cara they have a sweet, soft, flavorful center.

Virgo: White Grapefruit

the beginning of astrology

Virgo (born August 22 to September 23) is the only feminine Zodiac sign, represented by a maiden. Virgos are organized and tend to prefer the tried and true, and as such your best citrus fruit is the reliable white grapefruit. The golden rind of this variety of grapefruit is apt as well, as it is believed that the maiden of the Virgo sign will return and bring humanity a "golden age."

Libra: Spring Tangelos

Libra (born September 23 to October 23) is an air sign represented by a scale. Not surprisingly, their main trait is a quest for balance, justice, and fairness. For this reason, spring tangelos are your fruit: they are the patient result of a careful cross-breeding between tangerines and grapefruit, which provide a perfect balance of flavor.

Scorpio: Oranges with Chocolate

Scorpio (born October 24 to November 21) is a water sign represented by a scorpion. Sometimes, it is also associated with a snake or eagle.  In either case, Scorpios are known to be both dark and mysterious, much like the sweet and tangy oranges with chocolate box.

Sagittarius: Sol Zest Mandarin

ancient zodiac signSagittarius (born November 22 to December 21) is a fire sign represented by an archer or arrowsmith, but can also take the form of a centaur.  Sagittarians have a "life is short" attitude. With the onset of the Winter Solstice, the Sagittarian citrus fruit is the rare Sol Zest mandarin, available only during the shortest days of the season.

Capricorn: Double Bells

Capricorn (born December 22 to January 21) is an earth sign represented by a goat or sea goat. Capricorns like to keep very busy, so they need a citrus snack that will sustain them. As such, Capricorns are best matched with double honeybells, especially during their birthday when life gets extra celebratory and they may have a tendency to do too much.

Aquarius: Fallglo Tangerines

horoscope originAquarius (born January 22 to February 20) is an air sign that is often confused with a water sign, as its symbol is "the water bearer." Aquarians are considered wise and resilient. For that reason, their best citrus are the easy peel tangerines, which grow for the longest season under a wide variety of conditions.  

Pisces: Deep Red Grapefruit

how did the zodiac signs get their symbolsThe last astrological sign in the Zodiac calendar is Pisces (born February 20 to March 20). This is another water sign, whose symbol is a pair of fish swimming in opposite directions. Pisces are creative and free-thinking, but can also have an edge. As such, their best citrus is the deep red grapefruit, which is fresh and sweet and also a bit tangy: delicious!  

While you can enjoy all of the delicious fruits from Florida Fruit Shippers at any time of the year, consider treating yourself to your citrus zodiac when you need a little extra boost! 


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Tuesday, January 3, 2023

A Chilly New Year Brings Sweet New Citrus!

Brrrrr...even here in Florida, folks felt the effects of winter storm Elliott right down to our rarely-worn socks. Baby, it was COLD outside!  Sometimes, hard freezes can be tricky business for growers, as citrus in general is a warm weather fruit family that thrives when temperatures linger between sixty and ninety degrees Fahrenheit.  There are some exceptions: satsuma mandarins and kumquats do just fine down in the fifteen degree range, and some varieties of grapefruits can withstand longer freeze periods. As a general rule, however, any citrus can be damaged if exposed to hard freeze conditions for more than four hours. Fortunately, our growers are well-versed in caring for trees during these occasional cold blasts, and since citrus actually tastes better when exposed to non-extreme cold temperatures, the fruits coming out this winter post winter storm Elliott are exceptionally sweet and delicious!

Cold Weather Is Sweet for Oranges

Generally speaking, there are two types of citrus: sweet and acid. Here at Florida Fruit Shippers, we specialize in the sweet types: oranges, grapefruits, and tangerines/mandarins. Florida is an ideal climate for sweet citrus fruits because we get just enough cold weather to sweeten the sweet fruits even more, but not enough to damage them. Cold weather can be a positive or negative stressor to many types of fruits. When they are stressed a little bit by the chill, it acts as a "positive stressor," breaking down the cells just slightly so that more sugar is produced as a stress response. Only when the temperature plummets below freezing for an extended period does it become a "negative stressor," permanently damaging the fruit and even the whole tree. Fortunately our growers are well versed in hard freeze care, and one bite into our Honeybells coming out right now for their short season will prove that the results are truly delicious!

How Do Growers Protect the Fruit?

Citrus growers are aware that a cold snap can either make or break the fruit harvest, depending on just how cold it gets and for how long.  With the extreme conditions of winter storm Elliott spanning several days, while the rest of us were warming up hot chocolate and cueing up movies, they worked hard for several sleepless nights, putting their freeze-savvy techniques into action. Here are some of the things that farmers can do so they could chill out about the chill instead of get frosted about it:

  • More Ice Please: Even though it may seem counterintuitive, one of the most ingenious ways to offset subfreezing temperatures is simply to keep the plants from freezing--by freezing them! When a hard freeze is forecast, farmers irrigate the trees with water. As the temperature plummets, this water freezes but also releases heat into the environment. This heat is often just enough to prevent the actual fruit from totally freezing, so it can get busy generating cold-response sugars for our benefit!
  • Decorate for the Holidays: Wrapping trees in incandescent Christmas tree lights can offer well-balanced warmth throughout the leaves and branches, and will not damage the tree due to their low heat level. If trees are to be covered, lights can be strung and plugged in first.
  • Create a Cover-Up: Trees can be staked so the plastic frames can be constructed around them. Alternatively, trees can be wrapped in burlap, blankets, or other frost-resistant cloth.

The Health Benefits of Cold-Sweetened Fruits

We often hear that sugar is bad for us. While that's the case for refined sucrose, which can cause blood glycemic levels to skyrocket, sugars from whole foods are another story completely: those cold-sweetened citrus fruits are loaded with nutritional goodness, and their relative sugar content and glycemic index are still very low. Pair this with the incredible nutrition benefits of eating citrus during the more sedentary winter months, and you've got a win!  Consider:
  • *When temperatures are low and we become more housebound and sedentary as a result, the temptation to eat sugary, processed foods can become magnified. Super sweet citrus fruits are just as easy to eat, and take care of that sugar craving, without packing on extra pounds.
  • *Winter can also be a low energy time when folks tend to catch more colds than usual, both as a result of being inside more. The Vitamin C in citrus is revitalizing, energizing, and immune-boosting.
  • *The fiber, Vitamin C, and flavonoids in citrus fruits are an excellent aid to weight management and loss. Add to that that they pack a lot of flavor, nutrients and satisfaction into way less calories compared to a cupcake or other processed snack of comparable size.
Just as cold weather can bring out the warmth in our hearts, so can it bring out the sweetness in our fruits. So bring on the cold...our Honeybells (and other delicious January citrus fruits) are cool with it!


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