Thursday, June 30, 2016

7 Amazing, Weird, and Fun Facts about The History of Citrus in Florida

1. We have an almost 100-year tradition of citrus beauty queens.

The first Florida Citrus Queen was crowned in 1924, and they kept on coming every year (except for 1944, at the height of World War II) until into the 2000s. 

The Citrus Queen was not just another pretty face—she was expected to represent this extremely important industry all year round. Queens would meet and greet with all kinds of important people, including the president of the US. In 1983, the name was changed to Miss Florida Citrus, and the titleholder became a full-time employee of the Florida Department of Citrus, promoting Florida year-round.

However, in 2003, the Miss Florida Citrus concept was retired, seemingly for good. Yet the Citrus Queens did not go quietly, and in 2015, the pageant was revived, to much fanfare.

2. We built a majestic 226-foot tall tower in the middle of orange groves just to celebrate citrus.

Did you know the highest point in Florida was once a tower built to celebrate citrus? Strange, but true. The Florida Citrus Tower is 226 feet tall (500 feet with its antenna) and juts up like a skyscraper out of the flat Florida landscape. It was built in 1956 on what was then Florida’s major north-south highway. The intention was for tourists to go up and marvel at the green groves of oranges all around.

Today, that area’s focus has changed. Though you can still see a few citrus groves from the top, suburbia, development, and the skyline of Orlando are mostly what’s on view from the glassed-in observation deck. You can still apparently drop a coin from the top of the tower and listen to it fall all the way down, which is pretty neat.

3. The funky labels from our old citrus packing boxes are now considered serious art.

Citrus crate labels originated in California in the late 1800s. Like food packaging today, this original, humorous, and colorful art was a way for producers to make their product stand out in a crowded market.

As time passed, the marketing function of the labels declined, but the art became of interest to collectors. Today, citrus crate label art is featured in books and museums, and can be extremely valuable.

4. We have an entire museum dedicated to the citrus industry.

It’s called the Indian River Citrus Museum, and it’s in Vero Beach, FL. You can see historic photographs, citrus artifacts, and a cute little scale model of a citrus processing and packing plant. You can even take dance lessons or have a wedding in the pretty old historic building. And of course, you can visit the gift shop (what museum doesn’t have a gift shop?), and buy all kinds of neat vintage-inspired and retro citrus items.

5. We’ve been selling citrus, souvenirs, and other weird stuff (taxidermied gator head, anyone?) at fun, kitschy roadside stands since the 1920s.

If you’ve driven one of our major highways, you’ve probably seen giant billboards pleading with you to stop for fresh Florida orange juice, oranges, grapefruit, and much, much MORE!

These stands can range from glitzy brand-new affairs to time-worn, faded remnants of a Florida gone by. They’ve been around since the ‘20s, when they lured in southbound tourists eager to taste fresh Florida oranges and bask in the sun.

At the best of these stands, you can still buy truly fresh orange juice and other high-quality citrus, along with fun Florida souvenirs like seashell wind chimes and citrus candy. And yes, you might find some live baby gators lounging in an aquarium, too. Visit one while you can.

Courtesy of Vintage Travel Postcards

6. We’ve used some really crazy postcards about citrus to market Florida.

Back in the early 1900s, part of the exotic allure of tropical Florida was the fact that you could enjoy fresh oranges and grapefruit in what was the dead of winter up north. Marketers trying to sell tourists on the trip really played this up, depicting a world where folks waltzed around through the groves plucking citrus at will (sometimes in swimsuits) or where whimsically giant fruit was carted around in wagons. Later, it became popular to create and photograph giant scenes out of actual fruit, like the one above. These postcards are collectible, too.

Image courtesy of Sam Howzit on Flickr

7. Florida oranges have their own Disney mascot—the Florida Orange Bird—with quite a history.

The Florida orange bird was created in 1970 as a joint project between Disney and the Florida Citrus Commission. This cute, citrus-headed bird was meant to promote both Disney and the citrus industry. The Orange Bird was featured prominently in the park for a few years. There was even a live costumed “character” who roamed around for photo ops.

The Orange Bird was briefly “hot,” and even had his own record (with songs sung by Anita Bryant) and picture book. But after Bryant voiced some distasteful political views, he was retired for some years.

In 2004, the Orange Bird made a triumphant return, in part due to his wild popularity in Japan. He can again be seen at Tomorrowland Terrace at Disneyworld, where you can also enjoy some delicious orange freezes and other citrus treats.

Florida and citrus have a long and amazing history together--we just wouldn’t be the same state without these sweet, delicious, amazing, and valuable fruits. Try some today!

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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Tempt Your Picky Eater With Nutritious Florida Citrus

Almond butter… but not peanut butter! Dried cranberries…but not raisins! Tomato sauce…but not tomatoes! And bananas? Never!

What is this crazy list? It’s what you might call an excerpt of one of my children’s “food rules,” of course. And while these rules make me, well, a little bit nuts, I happen to know that my children actually are NOT that picky compared to a lot of kids. (However, we won’t talk about what comes home uneaten in that lunch box!)

Picky Eating: Common, but a Problem

What about in your family? Is your child or grandchild a picky eater? You’re definitely not alone. In fact, nearly 2/3 of parents report that this is an issue for them. Yikes! We also know that American kids are definitely not eating enough healthy fruits and vegetables. According to the CDC, 60% of kids don’t meet the daily recommendations for fruit consumption, and a whopping 97% don’t meet the recommendations for veggie consumption. Yet children need the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants that these healthy choices provide. What’s a parent to do?

 Citrus Tempts the Picky Palate

Fortunately, there are some foods that manage to be incredibly healthy while still appealing strongly to almost every kid out there. Know what one of them is? Citrus. The bright flavors, the juicy sweetness, and eye-popping color are close to impossible for even the pickiest kid to resist.
What’s more, when you choose Florida citrus, you’ll be powering up your child’s day with vitamin C, folate, potassium, and thiamin, along with fiber, carotenoids, and antioxidants with powerful healthgiving and anticancer powers. A medium orange packs 100% of the RDA for vitamin C!

So, looking for more ways to incorporate healthy, appealing citrus into your picky eater’s day? Let’s start with breakfast.

Choices All Day Long

Of course, few people of any age can resist fresh-squeezed citrus juice. Even if your child won’t eat much (or anything) in the morning, you can probably get him or her to down a glass of OJ! Valencias are the classic choice, but have you tried squeezing tangerines (the color is incredible) or our favorite, the incredibly flavorful Page orange? And if your kids or teens like drinking their breakfast and are up for something a bit thicker, try one of the many amazing citrus-based smoothies we’ve recommended in the past.

At lunchtime, oranges and other citrus are a classic lunchbox pick. These days, the variety of kid-sized, adorable, seedless fruits like tangerines, Honeybells, and babybells makes it really easy to mix things up. All that’ll come home is the peel!

If you have a larger appetite in your house, a bigger fruit like the sweet, seedless navel orange might be an even better choice. We like to slice navels into orange “smiles” at our house—it just makes them a little more irresistible to a child who might be in a hurry. I never have a problem with these going uneaten.

At dinner, you can use citrus to help a reluctant kid to enjoy salad. This almond, berry, chicken, and orange salad with spinach is like an absolute rainbow—in fact, you could even arrange it like a rainbow for younger children. Or go simpler and try scattering succulent sections of tangerine or Honeybell in with spinach, strawberries and cheese for a beautiful side dish that will tempt most children. And I don’t know anyone, picky or not, who could turn down this showstopper of a fruit salad.

As for dessert--well, you and I both know that there are a ton of citrus desserts out there, healthy and not. But if you’d like to tempt your kids with some choices that also have pack some nutritional power, how about some simple chocolate-dipped orange slices? It really isn’t a lot of chocolate (and chocolate does have its own health benefits)…and it’s also fresh fruit. A perfect finale for your picky prince or princess.

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Friday, June 10, 2016

8 Sweet and Delicious Homemade Citrus Pops to Make This Summer

When I was a kid, my idea of a really exotic popsicle was a Creamsicle or a Fudgsicle. Times have changed since then, and today I live near a “gourmet” popsicle store that offers a dizzying variety of flavors, like blackberry goat cheese and mango champagne! (But guess what? They still sell a lot of orange-vanilla and chocolate pops.)

It’s fun to head over to the popsicle place and pick out a flavor, but I also enjoy making my own pops at home. I can control what goes into them, making them healthy and lower-sugar, and they’re much more economical. Plus, I’m always a hero to my kids and family when I pull these treats out of the freezer.

This spring and summer, why not try making some delicious, healthy popsicles for your own family? Citrus-based pops are a great and popular choice. The fresh, bright flavors of orange, tangerine, and grapefruit works perfectly for frozen treats, and citrus’s natural sweetness and high vitamin C content also make it a great choice. We’ve done some research and found some recipes you’ll love.

Popsicle Gear

First, though, a quick word about equipment: I started off with a super-cheap “no-name” plastic mold I picked up at the grocery store one day. It was very frustrating to use—the pops always got stuck.

Next, I moved on to a higher-quality set much like this one that worked better. However, it kept sliding out of my freezer, and when it hit the floor, pieces would break off.

Finally, I graduated to unbreakable silicon molds like these that the pops slide out of easily. This is working well for me. My one complaint is that the popsicles don’t have sticks and aren’t quite as “cute” and classic-looking as some you might see photos of. If you want that look, try a pop maker like this one.

With the “equipment talk” out of the way,” we’re ready to get frozen!
  1. Fresh Squeezed Citrus Popsicles

    Here’s the simplest variation: just orange, tangerine, grapefruit, or any other kind of citrus juice, with the potential addition of a little simple syrup if your juice is a bit tart. Check out the beautiful colors! It would be really fun to make a “spectrum” of pops using different citrus, as this author has.
  2. Orange Creamsicles

    Stepping up the complexity just a little bit, here’s your homemade “creamsicle” pop! It’s a classic for a reason.
  3. Creamy Coconut and Blood Orange Popsicles

    These coconut-blood orange pops are so gorgeous and sophisticated. If you haven’t tried a popsicle using coconut milk, you have to—it’s an amazing ingredient, and also allows vegans and the dairy-intolerant to enjoy a creamy pop!
  4. Pineapple Orange Banana Popsicles

    This simple, nutritious pineapple-orange-banana popsicle uses the whole peeled orange and is completely free of added sugars (and guilt). The taste is tropical paradise.
  5. Honey Roasted Grapefruit Parfait Popsicles

    Wow, this Honey-Roasted Grapefruit Pop is so unique—I can’t even quite imagine it, but I’d love to try it! Though the recipe author used nondairy yogurt, you could certainly use regular yogurt as well.
  6. Citrus Basil Mojito Pops

    This fun recipe for citrus-basil mojito pops includes lime and lemon juice and mint and basil along with freshly squeezed orange juice. You can include or leave out the rum, depending on who you’re making them for.
  7. Orange Creamsicle Pops with Vanilla and Raspberries

    Here’s another coconut milk pop, this one featuring the vanilla-orange flavor along with fresh raspberries! Those are all absolute favorite flavors of mine—I’m really going to have to taste-test this one.
  8. Striped Juice Popsicles

    Ready for advanced pop making? Check out these gorgeous multi-color striped juice pops! You could easily do these with a variety of citrus juices, maybe including a few other colors and types (cranberry or pomegranate?) thrown in. Now THAT is some impressive at-home popsicle wizardry.
Pop-making really is a very simple way to make healthy hot-weather snacks that still feel like a treat. Enjoy the simple pleasures of a fresh homemade popsicle with your family this summer!

Images copyrighted to the blog authors who generously gave us permission to use them in our post!

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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Fresh, Beautiful Citrus-Themed Weddings

Will you be attending any weddings this spring or summer? While I’ve seen these events themed for all seasons of the year, it’s still true that June is one of the most popular months to tie the knot.

Maybe I’ve gotten a little sentimental as I’ve gotten older, but I adore weddings! It just brings my heart joy to see a couple setting out on this particular journey. I love observing the small human dramas that inevitably accompany any wedding, from toddlers talking through the ceremony to a favorite older relative dancing with the bride at the reception.

As a visual person, I also love taking in all the details—the flowers, the dress, the cake, and all the pretty touches that everyone seems to be getting so good at in the age of Pinterest. Frankly, I even enjoy looking at photos of beautiful weddings that I didn’t attend.

Which brings me to orange- and citrus-themed weddings! These days, it seems like every wedding has a unifying concept, color, or idea, and since I work for a citrus company, you can imagine it caught my attention when I first began to see weddings featuring oranges, orange blossoms, and citrus fruit.

While it might seem simply cute or trendy, this idea actually has hundreds (even thousands) of years of history behind it. In fact, oranges (and especially orange blossoms) have an ancient and powerful association with love and weddings. In ancient China, orange blossoms symbolized purity and chastity and were even sewn into the gowns of brides on their wedding day. This tradition later spread to Spain and broadly to Europe, where the delicate, fragrant, and elegant orange blossom is still commonly used in Spanish wedding bouquets to this day.

Most famously, this idea influenced Queen Victoria, who chose to wear a crown of orange blossoms on her wedding day in 1840. Her dress with also trimmed with orange blossoms. Thousands of brides followed in her footsteps, bedecking themselves with real or wax orange blossom hair ornaments.

Today, oranges and citrus bring to mind sweetness, plenty, and fresh simplicity—lovely themes for any wedding. And while they may be an ancient symbol, something about their bright color and elegant look also looks quite modern. Today’s brides and grooms will also appreciate that while fresh flower d├ęcor is often extremely expensive, brightly colored, lush citrus is a terrific bargain by comparison. Let’s certainly not forget the wonderful and universally beloved flavor of fresh citrus, either.

In fact, a citrus-inspired wedding can incorporate this incredibly versatile plant and fruit from the invitation design to the dress and bouquet all the way through to the cocktails, centerpiece, and dessert. Take a look at some of the ideas below to see how creatively couples use this theme in their weddings.

This wedding actually took place in an orange grove! While you might not be able to pull that off, the bouquet, invitations, and simple, but delicious-looking cake, all featuring citrus, are inspirational.

Okay, the colors and the incredible flowers in this wedding are amazing, lush, and maybe a little over the top…but take a look at that lemonade table, the cake display, and the bowls brimming over with citrus and hydrangea!

This citrus-inspired Florida wedding featured a wealth of citrus greenery and lush fruit…you couldn’t ask for more beautiful trimmings.

Here we see an orange-themed invite and simple but beautiful Florida orange centerpieces.

Check out this gorgeous destination wedding table, featuring hanging citrus chandeliers!

How about these adorable tangerine name tags?

And here’s a whole slideshow of lovely citrus wedding touches! I like the kumquat boutonniere.

If this has inspired you, or if you just enjoy daydreaming over pretty pictures, there are many more beautiful citrus wedding ideas online. Enjoy wedding season!


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