Growing citrus: how fancy varieties were created
Many varieties are available thanks to experts in growing citrus!
If you are of a certain age, you may remember when we could not purchase fancy citrus varieties of fruits during the winter unless you lived south of the Mason-Dixon line. We had to wait until it came back into season for growing citrus.
There was even an old tradition of children getting oranges in their Christmas stockings as a treat. They were that dear, but no longer. Today we always have access to citrus fruits in our local grocery stores. We can even order fancy citrus varieties such as honeybells, ruby red grapefruit, and tangelos.
Fancy citrus varieties were developed when farmers growing citrus discovered how simple it was to grow oranges if the conditions were right. Citrus needs rich soil, a temperate climate complete with cool nights. The cool nights help to increase the sugar content in the fruit as long as there is not a frost. Frost will immediately put a halt to the growing season. If the fruit is not ready to be picked, the season will not be profitable for the growers.
Some of the more interesting fancy citrus varieties are the Honeybell orange which is actually created from a tangerine and a grapefruit. The tangerine and grapefruit buds were placed into the trunk of an orange tree and the Honeybell orange was born. It has a sweet, juicy taste.
Some varieties have been cultivated by citrus growers to make them easier to peel (the Mandarin and the Ugli, types of oranges), and some have even been cultivated to be seedless (Clementines and the Satsuma oranges). And those of us who have lived in the South can appreciated that there are many fancy citrus varieties available.
Try using oranges or grapefruits in citrus recipes that go beyond breads and baked goods. You can make sauces, vinaigrettes even soups with citrus fruits. Fancy citrus varieties will add different flavors depending on which variety you choose. Adventurous cooks can thank a new generation of horticulturalists growing citrus for the wide range of sweetness, flavor and even color, in the citrus available year-round.
Fancy citrus varieties let you go beyond a plain old orange. Find a market or online citrus produce specialty retailer that differentiates between the different types of oranges, grapefruits and other citrus fruits.
Better yet, instead of waiting for someone to send you a basket of oranges and grapefruits, order one for yourself! In the middle of a cold winter day, a bite of a piece of citrus fruit is like a bite of sunshine.