Rare Fruit: the Honeybell Orange
According to the experts, there are over six hundred distinct varieties of oranges on earth. There are also fruits known as hybrids, which are only part orange and part something else. Probably the most popular orange hybrid is the tangelo, which is half tangerine (a variety of Mandarin orange), and half grapefruit or pomelo.
The tangelo is one of the oldest hybrid fruits on earth. It is believed to have originated in Southeast Asia over 3,500 years ago. All tangelos taste like tangerines and are extraordinarily juicy. In fact, they are known for providing copious quantities of juice at the expense of flesh and pulp. Not surprisingly, they are extremely popular with Americans, who have preferred orange juice to actual oranges for decades. Tangelos also have loose skin, which makes them much easier to peel than regular oranges.
Tangelos account for an almost microscopic portion of the total orange crop in America. In fact, there are really only two tangelos that are even worth mentioning. One is the Orlando tangelo, which is available from mid-November to early February. The other is the far more famous Honeybell orange, which is generally harvested during the last two weeks of January.
Also called the Minneola tangelo, it is a cross between a Dancy tangerine and a Duncan grapefruit. This rare hybrid was developed by the United States Department of Agriculture and Horticultural Research Station in Orland in 1931. It got its name from Minneola, Florida. More popularly, it is called the Honeybell orange, since it has a bell-shaped bud end.
Because it matures during the holiday season, the Honeybell orange is one of the most popular and sought after gift fruits in America. Unfortunately, there is never enough to go around. The vast majority of Honeybell trees grow along the Indian River in Florida. If the weather is pleasant and the crop is a good one, most orders are completed. However, if the frost comes early and the crop is affected, many orders will be cancelled.
Honeybell orange lovers are well aware of the sensitivity of theses crop, but they still order them weeks, even months in advance and cross their fingers. They are willing to take this gamble because the Honeybell is widely regarded as the tastiest and juiciest orange on the face of the earth. It is also the rarest and the hardest to find.
With an average circumference of 9 inches, the Honeybell orange is larger than most other orange varieties. When it reaches maturity, the peel is bright reddish-orange, like most tangerines. The peel is also quite thin and loose, which makes the Honeybell a cinch to peel. Prices are generally quite high, since the crop varies greatly from year to year. Don’t expect to find Honeybell oranges at your local supermarket. They must be ordered directly from commercial fruit orchards in Florida.
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