Tuesday, October 30, 2018

These Quirky Citrus Collectibles Can be Worth Thousands

The University of Florida hosts a quirky and amazing event once a year called Collectors’ Day. Avid collectors of all stripes take over the natural history museum to show off their special treasures to the public. It’s pretty fascinating. With my children in tow, I’ve marveled at hundreds of spatulas, a horde of Pez dispensers, and my personal favorite, an array of stereopticons, accompanied by boxes and boxes of antique cards.

At last year’s Collector’s Day, one booth I especially enjoyed was the one featuring a beautiful assortment of antique citrus reamers. I loved the shimmering rainbow of glass these came in. My favorites were the ones that looked like strange little clowns. (Not the scary kind of clowns.)

You surely know what a citrus reamer is, right? Some have a handle, while many sit atop a saucer and cup, and they feature a roughly conical ribbed spire. To use a reamer, you halve an orange, lime or lemon, and rotate it on the cone to extract the fruit’s juice. Some also have a clever way to remove or catch seeds.

Reamers are a very old-fashioned way to juice citrus fruit, but for my money, they still work pretty well! Invented over 200 years ago in Europe after the discovery that oranges, limes, and lemons prevent scurvy, these devices have changed over time. They started out as basic wooden implements, but soon evolved into pretty and sometimes extravagant little items.

According to historians, citrus reamers were especially fashionable during the Gold Rush of the 1920s in California. During this period in history, they were popular in bars, where they were used to extract the juice from citrus used in cocktails. Supposedly, the rather heavy devices not only served as d├ęcor, but could also stand in for a bouncer on occasion. It seems they’re heavy enough to clonk an unruly customer over the head with.

There are actually many collectors of these functional and sometimes beautiful items. The National Reamers Collectors Association even holds conventions where people gather to buy, sell, trade and talk about reamers.

Image from https://athomearkansas.com/article/main-squeeze/
They come in almost every color of the rainbow. The most valuable ones, of course, are the more unusual hues, like swirled, fluorescent green, opalescent, or my personal favorite, inky black. Many look like people or animals. They also come in the shape of oranges themselves.

Citrus reamers also helped increase the popularity of orange juice. Back before this refreshing beverage was a common one, Sunkist brands ran a “Drink an Orange” marketing campaign offering free citrus reamers to customers who saved their orange wrappers. In a funny way, it seems that orange juicers helped create orange juice.

Today, many people who enjoy fresh juice turn to faster electric juicers or more powerful manual models instead. However, the classic citrus reamer has been around for hundreds of years for a reason. If you’d like to use one to juice your own oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, or other citrus, you can find many interesting vintage reamers on eBay.


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Thursday, October 11, 2018

4 Easy Science Projects Using Oranges

If you have older children in school, you may have recently had to shepherd them through the process of creating a science fair project. This process can be stressful for parents and kids alike. (“The caterpillars are ALL dead!” “Why didn’t you label this graph?” “Where are all the glue sticks??”) By the end of the process, though, hopefully, something has been learned!

Meanwhile, if there are younger kids in your home (or if grandkids come to visit!) you may enjoy doing much smaller science experiments with them from time to time. I know my own children used to beg to play with “science kits” we had bought. These were fun. But I often felt like I had shelled out big money for what was really just a few dollars of ingredients and some instructions, plus my household materials.

Simple Projects for Pennies

Fortunately, these days, it’s really easy to find tons of fun and simple science experiments online that can be done for pennies. Many require only the most basic materials, like vinegar, baking soda and dish soap.

In fact, you can do a science experiment with something as simple as an orange! Of course, if you’re anything like us, you might not want to surrender one of our juicy, delicious navels or tangerines to science. It just seems a bit….wrong.

However, you could always use one of those anemic grocery store oranges. Also, a few of these let you eat the fruit first, or afterwards (don’t worry—no toxic chemicals involved).
Want to learn with citrus? Check out these fun and fruity experiments.

Oranges Go Swimming—Or Do They?

In this experiment in buoyancy, kids try to predict whether peeled and unpeeled oranges are going to sink or float in a bowl of water. Of course, the answer is that the buoyant, unpeeled orange will float (due to the air pockets in the skin) while the peeled orange will sink. This may seem fairly predictable to adults, but I remember the game of “Sink or Float?” entertaining my preschooler for quite some time.

How To: Orange Buoyancy Science Experiment

How Much Water is in an Orange?

One of the reasons that oranges are so good for us is that they are highly hydrating. Just how much water is in an orange, though? You can find out (roughly) with this simple experiment. You’ll slice and weigh a fresh orange, dry it out and weigh the dried slices, and do some simple math. Hot tip: You can dry your oranges faster in the oven.

How To: Orange Water Volume

Orange Battery

In this experiment, you use a nice, juicy orange, a copper nail, and a galvanized zinc nail to make an LED light glow! What makes this work is the acidity in the fruit and the dissimilar metals. By the way, this experiment will work better with a nice, fresh orange than an old and tired one.

How To: How to Make Electricity Using an Orange

Popping a Balloon with an Orange Peel

Here’s one that definitely allows you to eat the orange—bonus. In this very simple demonstration, you simply blow up a balloon, take a fresh orange peel, and squeeze the orange peel onto the balloon so that some of the peel oil sprays out onto the balloon. If the balloon is made out of rubber, it should instantly pop. This is because of the powerfully fragrant molecule that gives oranges their fresh smell. It weakens the latex in balloons!

How To: Warning: Never Eat an Orange by a Balloon!

Is there any end to what we can do with an orange? If this article has you feeling hungry or just curious, head over to our store for some sweet, fresh Florida citrus.

Photo credits: 
Water bowl” by Aditi Jain (CC-BY-SA)
Mandarin Orange Battery” by G43 (CC-BY-SA)

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