A Look Inside the Groves – November Hale Groves Update
Citrus groves are unique in the world of farming in that they provide many areas of tree canopy not only from the citrus trees themselves, but from trees used as windbreaks. Here an egret uses a tree line as cover to take flight in an open area.
A statuesque red shouldered hawk keeps a watchful eye over the grove. Birds of prey are one of nature’s most symbiotic forms of pest control, and spotting one is always a treat.
Testing and monitoring fruit for quality begins as soon as the fruit sets. Here we inspect a navel on its way to maturity. While the skin is still somewhat green, we find the flesh turning light orange as we check the internal development of cell structure and juice.
The refractometer we are using in this field test measures brix, or dissolved sugar percentages. To meet our standards, the ratios of natural sugars to the more tart but necessary acidic compounds must fall within strict guidelines. We will test a growing crop hundreds of times to keep quality on track.
These navel oranges against their canopy backdrop may appear still green to a casual glance. But because we make our way through the groves every day during the fruit growing cycle, we recognize the subtle shift from green to orange that signals the final stages of ripening. Soon these fruit will turn a vibrant orange.
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