The Story of Temple Oranges
Oranges are one of the oldest and most diverse fruits on the planet. They originated in Southeast Asia more than five thousand years ago. Prone to mutation and easily crossed with other species (hybridization), there were more than six hundred distinct varieties of the fruit at last count. Today we will discuss Temple oranges.
With so many different varieties, it is no surprise that little known about most of them. But because the Temple orange was discovered in America during the rise of the citrus industry, its story has been well-documented. It is important to note that the Temple orange most likely originated in Jamaica and that it was brought to the Sunshine State in 1894. However, it is considered a distinctly America variety because it is grown mostly in Florida. Not to mention the fact that there is a great story behind it.
When John Hakes and his wife Mary bought a small citrus orchard in Winter Park, Florida, most people thought they’d lost their minds. They knew next to nothing about farming and even less about horticulture. But their timing couldn’t have been better. It was a few years before the Great War and the citrus industry in Florida was booming. Their small citrus orchard turned a profit in the very first year. It was so profitable that they had to call on their children for help.
Louis Hakes was a real estate agent in New York City. His wife was a school teacher. When they moved to Winter Park, Florida they referred to themselves as “greenhorns.” Neither of them knew anything about the citrus industry. But that didn’t stop Louis from identifying the Temple orange.
When he noticed an orange that was distinctly different from the others, he tried it. The pulp was tender and the flavor of the juice and flesh was richer and more exotic than most other oranges. He had discovered a new orange variety. It may very well have been beginner’s luck.
What had he found? Temple oranges are a hybrid fruit, which means that they are a cross between two distinct species. In this case a tangerine (Mandarin orange) and a sweet orange. Like its parent, the tangerine, Temple oranges have loose skin, which makes them easy to peel. Like its other parent, the sweet orange, the Temple is juicy and tart.
In a few short years, the Temple became one of the most popular eating oranges in the nation. The Hakes family made hundreds of thousands of dollars from their discovery. But Louis Hakes was a humble man. As its discoverer, he was given the honor of naming the new fruit. He christened it the Temple orange, after his good friend, William Chase Temple.