Friday, March 29, 2024

Get Ready for the Solar Eclipse: Bring Oranges!

One week after Easter, on April 8, 2024, North America will experience a total solar eclipse. This will be the first total eclipse of the sun since 2017. During an eclipse, the path of the sun enables many residents of the United States to witness a celestial phenomenon (using protective glasses) that is truly remarkable.

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon orbits between the sun and Earth, thereby fully blocking the face of the sun. When this happens, the sky will darken for a few minutes, as if it were twilight. According to Science News: "Compared with the last total eclipse that crossed the United States, in 2017, this year’s total eclipse will last longer, the sky will fall darker, and the sun itself will put on a much livelier show."

What, you may ask, does all of this have to do with oranges and grapefruits?  Well, as it turns out, the unusual changes in lighting that occur during the mid-day eclipse do strange things to our eyesight, as the rod and cone cells in our eyes have to adapt to the quickly changing conditions.  Not only do vitamin C and bioflavonoids play an important role in how we see things, the color orange becomes key: read on to find out more.

Vitamin C, Bioflavonoids, and Your Eyes

Our eyes are comprised of two major photoreceptor cells in the retina: rods and cones.  True to their names, the rods have an elongated shape, while cones have a conical shape. Rods are receptive to low light and help with our peripheral vision, while cones are adapted to pick up vibrant colors and details in full light. During the eclipse, both rods and cones will engage together in the twilight of partial or full totality; this dual engagement of rods and cones results in an unusual way to see colors, called mesopic vision. While warm colors like orange, red, and yellow--the colors of many citrus fruits--tend to be bright and visible by day, they turn much darker when mesopic vision is engaged. Likewise, cooler colors like green and purple become very vibrant.  

Here's a fun experiment you can try: bring a bowl of citrus fruits, apples. and green grapes and wear a combination of warm and cool colors during the eclipse. When the eclipse is at totality, take a moment to look away from the sky, remove your protective eyewear, and look at your clothes, the bowl of fruit, and surroundings.  You'll see a world that is literally in the "twilight zone," where oranges look purple, apples look black, and green grapes look bright and vivid. This is called the Purkinje effect.

The vitamin C and bioflavonoids found in citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits promote the health of the nerves that enervate the rods and cones so that the color perception can be transmitted to the brain.  These powerful compounds also strengthen the blood vessels and structural integrity of our eyes, enabling us to better experience the dynamic wonder of the eclipse.  As such, it's a great time to uptick your consumption of oranges and grapefruits in these days leading up to the eclipse.

Citrus and Science Models

There is nothing quite as effective as using models to teach astronomy.  Lucky for us, the sun resembles a very large orange or grapefruit, and as such makes a perfect "sun," Grab a ping pong or golf ball for the moon and a blue and green bouncy ball for the planet Earth and voila! You have an instant model to teach kids what the solar eclipse is all about.  After the learning session, you can eat the sun!

In fact, "eating the sun" is what we are doing every time we enjoy a delicious piece of fruit from Florida Fruit Shippers. Thanks to the warmth and light from our closest star and the finest growing conditions and practices, our fruit "eclipses" anything you'll ever find in a grocery store.

Happy Easter, Passover, and Solar Eclipse, from all of us here at Florida Fruit Shippers!


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Thursday, March 14, 2024

The Luck of the Orange-ish


Ahh, Saint Patrick's Day approaches, laddies!  It's a time when we can all be Irish for a day and revel in the luck o'the leprechauns. The tradition we are all familiar with is to wear green--lest ye get pinched--for good luck, and to follow the rainbow to its end for a pot o' gold.  

But did ye know that in Ireland, green isn't the only color associated with Saint Patty's Day. Saint Patrick himself actually wore blue, and as such blue was the original color associated with the holiday. The Irish flag boasts three colors: Green, white, and orange. These colors represent harmony between Ireland's two major religions--Catholic and Protestant-- and as such it is not uncommon to see the color orange worn during the month of March, and not just sported as orange leprechaun beards. While this might not be the case for some regions of Ireland where the intended religious harmony is not yet realized, orange can be a fun main or accent color for Saint Patrick's celebrations in other areas.  That goes for foods as well: in addition to "green-ifying" dishes and even beer, we can also serve orange-colored foods, and Irish eyes will be a-smiling.

Eating the Rainbow
One of the most famous traditions associated with Saint Patrick's Day is to "follow the rainbow" to find a pot o' gold. What if the "gold" you are seeking is in the rainbow itself?  You can use an assortment of citrus fruits to cover the red, orange, and yellow parts of the rainbow color spectrum and then fill in the green and blue with other types of fruits. 

Where's the gold, you ask? Easy: it's your good health, the greatest treasure of them all. And since we are talking edible sources of gold here, here's a creative St. Patrick's Day decorating idea: Take a leprechaun-styled pot, fill it with juicy tangerines and voila! You have a pot o' gold!

Cheers to Your Health

Another famous tradition associated not only with Saint Patrick's Day but also the Irish spirit in general is, well, spirits. Fun drinks enjoyed in moderation exemplify the camaraderie and warmth of the Irish culture, made famous by pubs and live music.  What better citrus-based drink to enjoy during this time of the year than the Drunk Leprechaun or its liquor-free version the Green Leprechaun?  While the drink itself may be green, its delicious flavor comes primarily from orange juice, and it is garnished with a juicy slice of navel orange.

To make it, simply mix equal parts orange juice and grape juice (alcohol-free version) or orange juice with vodka and blue curacao, stir, and garnish with a juicy slice or three of navel orange (and maybe a maraschino cherry). Slainte! 

Orange Is the New Green
Most oranges are, well, orange, but some varieties in Asia have green skin even when ripe, and all citrus starts out as a green-skinned fruit on the tree.  While the flesh of oranges and grapefruits can be yellow, green, or pink, a popular St. Patrick's Day tradition is to dye foods green.  A healthy way to do this is with another superfood: spinach!  Simply puree fresh spinach with water, strain out the pulp, and soak your citrus pieces or slices in the green liquid for a couple of hours. 

Move over, green eggs and ham: here come green oranges and grapefruits!

Happy St. Patrick's Day from all of us here at Florida Fruit Shippers.


Why Do Some People Wear Orange on St. Patrick's Day? (

Why Some Wear Orange on St. Patrick's Day (Facts) (

Drunk Leprechaun - Shake Drink Repeat

Blue CuraƧao - What is it, What Does it Taste Like and More - The Kitchen Magpie

DIY Natural Food Dyes (

Why is my orange green? | Plant Scientist (

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Sunday, February 25, 2024

From Citrus Scraps to "Scent"-sational!

Mmmmmm.... there's nothing quite like a delicious orange or tangerine, always at the ready for peeling and eating. There are few things in nature besides citrus fruits and bananas that come "prepackaged" and ready to eat in one, hand-sized, quickly peel-able serving. We typically peel them quickly, and then deposit the thick and protective rinds in the trash or--better yet--the compost bin. But wait!  Before tossing the peel, consider this: citrus peels have many uses that will not only cut down on food waste, but enrich both your home and health as well.

Just Eat It

Remember that Michael Jackson hit "Beat It" from the eighties? Weird Al Yankovic released a spoof of that song called "Eat It" that was accompanied by a hilarious video showing him eating, well, just about everything. While we don't generally recommend this approach to food consumption, it's worth noting that the rind or peel of citrus fruits are not only edible; they are extremely nutritious!  In fact, they contain three times more vitamin C than the pulp itself, coming in at 14% of your daily recommended allowance in only one tablespoon. The pithy part of the peel also contains a high concentration of polyphenols and limonenes, those powerhouse compounds clinically proven to reduce inflammation and cancer. Bonus: chewing citrus peel makes your breath smell good!

However, just because something is good for you, doesn't mean more is better. Orange and tangerine peels can be bitter-tasting and contain a lot of fiber, which in turn can cause stomach upset. As such, less is more: enjoy the peel on a single slice of fruit, as in the picture above, or finely grate it into what's known as "zest" and add a tablespoon of zest and/or thinly sliced strips of peel to salads, yogurts, cottage cheese for a nutritious and colorful condiment. You can also use slices of oranges as creative, edible garnishes on drinks, and their peels help keep them firmly on the side of the glass. With smaller servings, you'll still reap all of the nutritional and breath-freshening benefits. Just make sure to thoroughly wash your citrus fruit in hot water before slicing and consuming the peel.

Odor-Busting Tips

In addition to freshening your breath, citrus peels are champion household fresheners. In fact, go ahead and throw a few peels in the bottom of your garbage can: their essential oils will naturally neutralize any rotten trash odors. You can also throw some fresh peels into your bathtub, where the essential oils have a similar odor-busting and mood-boosting effect. While we're at it, toss some peels in some vinegar in a spray bottle and wait a week: you'll get a wonderful cleaner that smells bright and cleans great!  Those citrus essential oils are cleaning powerhouses: you can even use an orange peel to scrub greasy pots, pans, and dishes.

Dry Them and Try Them

Peels can be easily dried by cutting them into strips and laying them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper in an oven set to 180 or 200 degrees. It will likely take them about two to three hours to dry completely.  If possible, leave the oven door open slightly to allow moisture to escape and maximize drying.  You can also microwave them on a paper towel for five minutes at fifty percent power, and then leave them on the kitchen counter for several days to finish drying out. Alternatively, you can place them on a drying rack or mesh outside in full sun for about a week. Once dried, they can be stored in airtight containers and used for up to a year. You can eat them right out of the jar if you wish, and also enjoy the following uses for dried citrus peels:
  • Place them in your dresser drawers to freshen your clothes
  • Grind them with salt and pepper for a tasty seasoning
  • Grind them with sugar or salt, mix with almond oil, and use as an energizing hand and body scrub
  • Add them to a hot cup of tea along with a stick of cinnamon
  • Use peels as kindling for a nice smelling campfire!
  • Make potpourri: combine your dried peels with cinnamon sticks, pine cones, cloves, nutmeg, dried flowers, and essential oils if desired. Mix well and store in mason jars.

So, as you can see, enjoying the whole citrus fruit--pulp and rind alike--has a lot of a-PEEL. With spring right around the corner, we here at Florida Fruit Shippers wish you a scent-sational experience with your premium citrus! 


Can You Eat Orange Peels, and Should You? (

12 Surprising Uses for Citrus Peels You’re About to Throw Away | Well+Good (

5 Ways to Use Leftover Orange Peels to Improve Your Home - One Delightful Life

30 Uses For Orange Peels You Never Knew Possible (

How to dry orange peel – Sun Sentinel (

How to Dry Citrus Peels (Preserving the Flavor and Health Benefits) - Drying All Foods

Homemade Potpourri From Leftover Fruit Peels (

Garden Guides | How to Make Orange Peel Potpourri

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Friday, February 9, 2024

Creative DIY Citrus Valentine's Gifts and Decor

Will you be my "Bellentine?"  With Valentine's Day around the corner, it makes sense that Honeybells and Golden Honeybells are at the peak of their season. Likewise, Cara Cara red navel oranges are ripe and ready to enjoy; their signature red pulp is custom made for the holiday of Love. What better gift for your beloved than fresh, seasonal citrus? A nice fruit-filled heart-shaped bowl like the one pictured below is the perfect centerpiece. But why stop there? How about some creative gifting and decor to really convey the Valentine's mood?

Say I "Heart" You with Multicolored Citrus

Fortunately for us, citrus comes in a variety of colors, inside and out.  No need to buy expensive decorations or sugary snacks: simply slice a few varieties of your favorite citrus types and use a paring knife to shape them into little hearts. These can be added to fruit salads, green salads, used as a garnish on a main dish, or simply served up alone as a fun snack! The picture below shows a multicolored assortment of navelred navel, and babybell oranges.


Let's Just be Friends 
There's simply no room for heartbreak this Valentine's Day: here's an easy and fun craft your kids and you can give to others to let them know how much you love being their friend.  Is someone crushing on you? This gift is also a gracious way to let that someone down easy. Simply take your citrus of choice, place it in a gift bag, and print or hand-design a card that says: "Orange you glad we're friends?" Tie the card onto the bag and voila: the perfect Friendentine!

Something for Your Main Squeeze

Now here's a clever gift idea for your pun-loving beloved: give them some delicious citrus and attach a hand juicer with a card that says "I just want to give you a big SQUEEZE for Valentine's Day!" 

Getting Romantic

Worried about setting a romantic mood for the big V Day?  Citrus is here to help once again!
While not traditionally recognized as one of the "aphrodisiac" foods like oysters and chocolate, more recent research has shown that the high vitamin C content of all citrus fruits increases blood flow and libido. Furthermore, the bright aroma of oranges and grapefruits is energizing and as such can counter fatigue that can get in the way of romance. You can bring these love-boosting qualities right into your home with a glowing citrus candle and a tasty cocktail recipe.  

There's so much to love about citrus! 
Happy Valentine's Day from all of us at Florida Fruit Shippers! 


10 Aphrodisiac Foods That Increase Libido & Improve Your Sex Life | Cory Couillard | YourTango

How To Make a Clementine Candle | Apartment Therapy

Jac o' lyn Murphy: Valentines for your Main Squeeze - Healthy and Pretty DIY (

Winter Citrus Bourbon Cocktail Recipe | By Gabriella

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Thursday, January 25, 2024

Citrus: In Good Taste

It's late January, when most of the country is only dreaming about warm weather and the delicious enjoyment of eating freshly picked produce. Here at Florida Fruit Shippers it's the peak of citrus season, with many varieties of oranges, grapefruit, honeybells and tangerines all ripe for the harvest and ready to be savored!  These varieties differ in appearance, color, texture, and most importantly, taste. Overall, grapefruit is considered to be on the sour side, while oranges generally classify as sweet. But what is "taste," really? how does it compare to "flavor?" And how many different tasty flavors can citrus really have?

Taste and the Many Flavors of Citrus

There are receptors on our tongue's taste buds for five broad categories of taste: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and savory. Of these, citrus covers three of them: sweet, sour, and bitter. The flavor of something is the combined effect of its taste and odor, so to maximize your enjoyment of eating your citrus of choice, take a nice whiff first, an intentional and mindful bite, and then proceed to chew slowly so that your olfactory receptors can continue to take up the citrusy notes along with your taste buds. 

Numerous adjectives are used to describe how something tastes beyond the five main categories. Imbibe, Inc. has identified thirty-six key flavors in the foods that we eat and smell, and of these, seven can be used to describe citrus fruits in varying degrees: acidic, candy-like, clean, delicate, piquant (exciting), tangy, and tart. Let's examine some of the January fruits and get to know their flavors a bit better.


There are two main orange varieties ready for the picking right now: navels and cara cara red navels. Going for the classic "orange" taste? Navels are the poster child of oranges, with the low acid, just-sweet-enough flavor that oranges are known for. Cara cara red navels (pictured above), by comparison, are a bit more complex in flavor. While they also have the low-acid sweetness characteristic of their navel cousin, that deep red flesh also carries delicate floral hints of cranberry and rose. Temple oranges are a tangerine-orange cross that will become available at the very end of January and remain in season only for a few weeks. They are clean-tasting, piquant and tart, and have a spicy-sweetness that offsets the tartness perfectly.


Grapefruit is the one type of citrus that is available for most of the harvesting season, as early as November. Ruby red grapefruit, pictured here, can be obtained all the way through May. While it certainly sports the classic sour grapefruit tang to the delight of all grapefruit lovers, it also has a distinctive sweetness that is a trademark of the red-fleshed citrus varieties. By comparison, the seedless Marsh white grapefruit has that well-loved clean and classic grapefruit taste, with just enough sweetness to bring out the joy in your pucker. Marsh white and deep red grapefruits are only available through February. The cooler temperatures seem to make the deep reds a perfect combination of sweet and sour. While "juicy" is not an adjective for taste per se, the juiciness of the deep reds certainly serves to enhance its flavors!


Tangerines are available all season long, from November through May. They tend to be sweeter and less acidic than oranges, with a lightly tart flavor that is balanced out with a honey-like sweetness. If you get any of the pith of the fruit, you may also taste a stronger bitter flavor, as tangerines in general have a stronger taste, smell, and overall flavor compared to other citrus varieties.


Honeybells, with their distinctive "bell" stem, are a unique tangerine/grapefruit hybrid with a flavor that has been described as "vivid." With their parentage, it can be expected that the fruits are tart and tangy; the surprise is that they also have a honey-like sweetness from which the name "honeybell" is derived. Like grapefruits, their juiciness only serves to enhance their taste and flavor. 

Whether you prefer sweet, sour, bitter, or any combination of these, citrus fruits have you covered! One thing we can say for sure: no matter which citrus types you choose to enjoy this season, you have excellent taste. 


Types of Taste: What to Know About Taste and Flavor (

Understanding Tastes and Food Flavors | American Heart Association

A Complete Guide to Citrus Fruits (

36 Key Terms for Describing Taste and Flavor – Imbibe (

What Do Tangerines Taste Like? (

What are Honeybell Oranges? (with pictures) (

What Are Tangelos? (

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Saturday, January 13, 2024

New Year, New Citrus: Spotlight on the Golden Honeybell

Ring the bells; it's a new year! With 2024 off to a good start, many of us are well underway with our New Year's resolutions: a new fitness program, a new diet, a new language, s new hairstyle, a new attitude.  How about a new citrus variety?  Introducing: Golden Honeybells!

What Is a Honeybell?

Golden Honeybells belong to a general category of citrus collectively known as Honeybells. True to their name, they are exceptionally sweet (hence the prefix "honey") and have a distinctive bulbous, almost pear-like shape (hence the suffix "bell"). Traditional honeybells are not oranges at all, but rather a vibrant, dark orange cross between a Darcy tangerine and a Duncan or Bowen grapefruit, which is a sweeter and very seedy variety of grapefruit. The result, thankfully, is a seedless tangelo that is incredibly juicy and easy to peel, and which does not have any contraindications with some prescription medications as grapefruit might. Traditional Honeybells are quite large, and they are so juicy that it would take only two regular-sized Honeybells to fill up a glass! There is also a much smaller, more snackable variety called the Baby Bell. Both of these Honeybell versions are in season only for a few weeks and are available from mid-February through mid-April. Because of their unique shape, they must be very carefully hand-picked or hand-clipped so as not to damage the "bell."

So What Makes a Golden Honeybell Different?

Slide over, Honeybells and Baby Bells: there's a new Bell in town! Golden Honeybells are still considered to be in the "bell" family because of that distinctive bell-shaped head and sweet flesh. Genetically, Golden Honeybells are lighter in color and are a mandarin hybrid. They are large with a bumpier rind than traditional Honeybells. Best of all, they are available as early as January 1 with an overall longer season that extends into late March.

Golden Honeybell Chess Pie

While the main thing one would do with most any citrus variety is to peel and eat it, Honeybells are ideal for juicing.  Upon further research, however, this blog author discovered a very original Chess Pie recipe using....Golden Honeybells! Chess pies are a southern specialty, and are usually lemon or chocolate flavored.  As it turns out, Golden Honeybells (and regular Honeybells) are a terrific take on tradition.

Golden Honeybell Chess Pie
*Adapted with permission of Nancie McDermott from Southern Pies (Chronicle Books, 2010).

Pastry crust for a 9-inch single-crust pie
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons cornmeal, preferably stone ground
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
4 eggs, beaten well
¼ cup butter, melted
¼ cup freshly squeeze Honeybell juice (or other flavorful orange)
¼ cup evaporated milk
3 teaspoons grated Honeybell zest

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9-inch pie pan with crust and then crimp the edges decoratively.

In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, cornmeal, flour and salt. Stir with a whisk to blend. Add the eggs, butter, melon juice, evaporated milk and zest. Using a fork or whisk, mix well, stirring and scraping to combine everything evenly into a thick, smooth filling.

Pour into the piecrust and place the pie on the bottom shelf of the oven. Bake until the edges puff up and the center is fairly firm, wiggling only a little when you gently nudge the pan, about 45 minutes.

Place the pie on a cooling rack or a folded kitchen towel and let cool to room temperature. 

The Divas of the Citrus World

Regardless of what type of Honeybells you enjoy and whether you like to eat, drink, or make pie out of them, the Golden Honeybell, traditional Honeybell, and Baby Bell varieties are limited due to their special growing and harvesting conditions. They grow best in certain "orange belt" regions of California and Florida, with variations from year to year based on precipitation conditions (Honeybells don't like exceptionally damp environments). Because of the unique growing factors, harvests are smaller than other citrus varieties. That, plus the fact that they require extra hand-picked care during harvesting, truly make these rare fruits the "Bell" of the winter ball!


Buyers Guide to Why create this guide? (

Facts About Honeybells (Honeybell Oranges) - Yarden

What are Honeybell Oranges? (with pictures) (

A Brief Guide to Mandarins and Their Hybrids (

Eating My Words: Let’s Lunch: 'Go For the Gold' with Honeybell Chess Pie (

What Is Chess Pie—And How Did It Get Its Name? (

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