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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