If you’re an orange-juice-for-breakfast person, then you’re most likely used to tasting a bit of Florida.
Most people know that Florida is the largest producer of oranges in the country, but they don’t know that it is second only to Brazil as the largest orange-producer in the world. What’s more, Florida oranges are usually heavier than other kinds, since they tend to be juicier and have thinner peels. And while California oranges are usually the ones you eat, Florida oranges tend to be the ones you drink. Next to tourism – ahem, Mr. Mouse – the citrus industry is the second largest industry in the state.
Oddly enough, oranges aren’t even native to the state of Florida; historians think they were brought over sometime in the early 16th century. The first citrus processing plant in the country was built near Haines City in 1915. It normally takes between three and five years for a tree to start sprouting oranges, and it reaches full maturity around the seven-year mark. Unfortunately, a small but growing percentage of Florida citrus trees are being wiped out by an insect-carried bacteria called Huanglongbing (citrus greening), a cure for which has still not been found.
While other industries (namely livestock and milk) have questionable detours on the way to your table and often come with nasty side effects due to unnatural processing, a Florida orange will remain one of the most natural components of your meal.
So if you’re visiting Orlando, consider taking a small southern detour to Polk County, a.k.a. orange heaven. Get lost in the groves and try a few sweet juice samples at Florida’s Natural Growers Grove House in Lake Wales or Davidson of Dundee, the latter as seen on the Food Network.
And next time you go to the supermarket, keep an eye out for Hamlin Oranges (usually seedless), Red Navel Oranges (good source of fiber), Orlando Tangelos (a tangerine-grapefruit hybrid), Temple Oranges (best for eating straight – and one of the only oranges that is sugary enough to sink in water), Dancy Tangerines (the ‘zipperskin’ fruit), and Ruby Red Grapefruits… all from the Sunshine State.
Benjamin D. Esham / Wikimedia Commons