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? (

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.