Every year, starting in mid to late November, domestic citrus fruits come in season. The wide varieties available includes grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, tangelos, lemons, limes and many more. All of these different fruits belong to the same species. The vast difference among them resulted from accidental mutations and intentional hybridizations. Suprisingly enough, the origin of all citrus comes from a grapefruit-like fruit called the pummelo. Pummelos are very large and have thick rinds. As they taste very much like today’s grapefruit, it took hundreds of years for sweeter varieties to appear.
Oranges, in ancient times, were grown only in southern Asia. Originally they were not sweet, tasting very similar to a grapefruit. Occasionally, a tree with a slightly sweeter crop would be noticed and cultivated. As a result, the sweet orange came around over time. They became popular and cultivated worldwide by 1800. Soon after, a mutation was noticed that changed the citrus industry. A tree had a mutation that made its oranges virtually seedless. These would be known as navel oranges, and that single tree is responsible for every navel orange grown today. Cuttings from that one tree were cultivated, re-cut, and sent to orchards around the world. Similar mutations have since produced other navel oranges with new and interesting characteristics. For instance, blood oranges, hence the name, have a deep red flesh, while cara-cara oranges have a pink flesh and heirloom varieties offer premium flavor and juice. These are all examples of navel oranges and are available at Eckert’s at the peak of their season.
Because all citrus fruits are members of the same species, they are easily hybridized. Tangelos are a perfect example, as they result from a cross between a grapefruit (pummelo) and a tangerine. The most popular kind of tangelo is the minneola. Minneola tangelos look like a small orange with a knob on one end. they are sweeter and juicier than an orange and are practically seedless. Honeybells are often called oranges, but are really a tangelo and are the juiciest citrus fruit of the season. Another extreme example of a tangelo is the ugli fruit. Ugli fruit are very large, very juicy and absolutely unique and ugly!
We extend a warm invitation for you to stop by Eckert’s produce department to sample this season’s citrus, and don’t forget Eckert’s fresh squeezed orange juice, bottled right in the Country Store!