Temple Oranges from Florida
Florida has been the U.S. leader in citrus fruit production for over a century. Though they are the world leader in grapefruit production, the orange is easily their largest crop. At last count, there were over sixty distinct orange varieties in the Sunshine State. Since ninety-five percent of the total orange crop is sent to processing plants for juicing and most of them are Valencia Oranges, the remaining varieties are often sold as fresh fruit.
However, not many varieties make their way out of Florida. If, for example, you are shopping for oranges in Princeton, New Jersey, you may have to settle for Navel Oranges. On occasion, out-of-state shoppers will find bags of Florida oranges on sale. These are most likely sweet oranges. If they are really lucky, they might find Temple oranges.
Temple Oranges were discovered in Florida around the turn of the last century. They have been grown commercially since 1917. There are around twenty-five thousand acres of Temple orange trees in the Sunshine State. We know it sounds like a lot, but there are over five hundred and fifty thousand acres of citrus trees in Florida, which means that Temple oranges are a relatively minor variety.
But since only five percent of the oranges that are harvested in Florida are sold as fresh fruit, it is considered a top eating variety of orange. Not as rare as the Honeybell or as prevalent as the Navel, the Temple orange is wildly popular in Florida. Few people know, however, that the Temple is not really an orange.
With over six hundred distinct varieties, the orange has a large and inclusive family, many of which are not real oranges. The Temple orange is actually a hybrid fruit, which means that it is a cross between two distinct species. In this case, the tangerine or Mandarin orange was matched with a sweet orange.
More often than not, these parings do not work out. A descendant gets some of the good characteristics of its parents and a few of the bad ones. Temple Oranges, on the other hand, got mostly good genes, which is probably why they have been such a hit in the States.
Like the sweet orange, its juice and flesh is succulent and a bit tart. Like the tangerine, it has loose skin, which makes it easy to peel. Because the rind is also thick, Temple Oranges are often used for zest and as ingredients in certain exotic dishes.
Finding Temple Oranges outside of Florida is a gamble. If there is a bumper crop, there’s a good change that shipments will arrive at your local supermarket in late January or early February. If they do not, it is possible to order them from commercial growers on the internet.