The Honeybell Orange in Florida
The tangelo is an ancient hybrid fruit that is a cross between a tangerine and a pomelo. It is believed to have originated in Southeast Asia more than 3,500 years ago. Because the pomelo is not widely grown in America, the modern tangelo is a cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit. Since it is extremely sensitive to cold weather, most tangelos are cultivated in Florida.
Over the past decade, the annual production of tangelos in the Sunshine State has averaged about 130,000 tons. It sounds impressive before you find out that Florida produces about 6.8 million tons of oranges per annum. As you might expect, the tangelo is a merely a bit player, a niche fruit. In this article we will discuss the famous Honeybell orange.
In spite of its name, the Honeybell orange is actually a tangelo. Sometimes called a Minneola tangelo by fruit fanatics, it is one of the rarest fruits on earth. Because it not cold hardy and it requires fertile soil to grow, most Honeybell orange trees grow along the Indian River in Florida. The fruit is famous from is incredibly brief harvest season, which last for two to four weeks in January. In fact, most Honeybell are picked during the last two weeks of the month. Because they have thin skin and an extremely sensitive bud end that is shaped like a bell (hence the name), most Honeybells must be handpicked and packaged in special containers or trays.
The costs of this additional care and maintenance can be prohibitive. Packaging costs alone are more than twice as much as the standard orange. Crop yields are also significantly less, since the Honeybell orange is more likely to succumb to the cold than an orange or a grapefruit. With that said, it remains one of the most requested fruits each and every year.
Fruit lovers place their orders in the fall and count themselves lucky if they receive a shipment. The average Honeybell orange costs about four times as much as the standard orange. Why are people willing to pay such seemingly exorbitant prices? Well, one reason is that the Honeybell is considered a delicacy. Few people have actually tried one. Another reason is that they are arguably the most delicious variety of citrus fruit on the planet.
Because it is a hybrid fruit, the Honeybell orange has inherited the most appealing features of both of its ancestors. It has the size of the grapefruit and the sweetness and coloring of a tangerine. The Honeybell is also seedless, which is a mystery since both of its ancestors were seeded varieties. But the juice is truly what sets it apart from the other varieties or oranges, tangelos, and tangerines. Just two Honeybell oranges provide a full glass of juice!