Seasonal oranges are ripe
ANN M. O'PHELANFlorida oranges date back centuries, as the first Florida orange trees were likely planted by Ponce de Leon, somewhere around St. Augustine between 1513 and 1565. Today, it's quite a bit more than just a few trees.
Published: February 13, 2013
Published: February 13, 2013
In fact, according to the 2010-11 Florida Agriculture Statistics Services Citrus Summary, "Slightly more than 70.6 million citrus trees are grown on just more than 473,000 acres in Florida."
All oranges types have their own set of characteristics in terms of taste (sweet, sour, tangy), the outside peel (color, markings, texture, thickness), the internal parts (color, rind and amount of seeds), the use (juicing, eating or processing) and the origin (all originally from the Far East).
Thanks to our ideal subtropical climate and sandy soil, oranges grow quite well in our Sunshine State and are harvested in three main seasons — from September until May (or even longer). There are early season oranges (September to December), midseason oranges (December to February) and late season oranges (February to May). Some seasons overlap, and some last longer than expected.
Right now the mid-season oranges are ready for picking, along with those in the late season. The primary mid-season oranges include: the Pineapple Orange, the Seedless Pineapple Orange (to a lesser extent), the Mid Sweet and the Valquarius. The Temple Orange is also ripe late January and early February.
"The Pineapple Oranges and the Mid Sweet are dual-purpose oranges," said J. Peter Chaires, executive vice president of Florida Citrus Packers, who explained that they both make delicious fresh juice and are used extensively in processed orange juice products.
Many of the oranges grown in Florida are juiced. In fact, according to the Florida Citrus Mutual, "Of the citrus harvested (in 2010-11), 90 percent was processed into juice and the remainder was sold as fresh fruit."
The Pineapple Orange has a physical resemblance to the pineapple and is known for its bright color and juicy, sweet, rich taste. The Mid Sweet has a deeper color and offers a delicious flavor and a low seed count.
"The two types pack well in fresh cartons and are used for food service and home fresh consumption," said Chaires. Both the Pineapple Oranges and the Mid Sweet are also used in processed orange juice products, such as citrus molasses, D-limonene, fragrances, flavorings, alcohol, wines, preserves and citrus seed oil.
Valquarius is an early Valencia orange that was developed by the citrus breeding program at the University of Florida's Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred.
"This orange is an early maturing Valencia, and generally comes in approximately six weeks ahead of the regular Valencia," said Chaires, who explained that this orange provides the processor, or packer, true Valencia quality — including flavor and color — much earlier in the year. "The color is superior to other mid-season oranges," added Chaires.
Due to the newness of the Valquarius, it is not yet finding its way into cartons, and most growing acreage remains in the evaluation stage. "We expect it to be more widely planted in years to come," said Chaires.
The popular Valencia is a late-season orange. It is also a leading sweet orange variety that is commonly called "the juice orange." Its thin peel and lack of seeds makes it easy to eat.
The Temple Orange is an excellent eating orange with a bright orange rind. It's also easy to peel, easy to section and offers large amounts of juice.
Oranges make up a large part of Florida agriculture. According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, "In 2011, in terms of total value of production, Florida accounted for 67 percent of the total U.S. value for oranges ($1.3 billion)." During the 2010-2011 season, Florida produced 139 million boxes of oranges. Early and mid-season varieties made up 74.2 million of those boxes.