By Robbie Sigona
Though California is the largest producer of agricultural products in the U.S., according to 2009 report by the United States Department of Agriculture, there are still other types of produce grown elsewhere in the nation that we want to share with our customers. Being in the produce business, we love nothing more than taking advantage of seasonal opportunities to share with you the best of what our local community and world can produce.
Florida, for example, grows some of the most outstanding citrus fruits in the world. The Florida Honey tangerine, a small, squat citrus fruit originally called a Murcott, flourishes in Florida. They have a dark orange, almost red flesh that is sweet as honey, as its name suggests, and they’re not sour or tart like other orange citrus. Their smooth, thin skin is yellowish-orange in color with a tinge of green at times, and is easier to peel than most other citrus.
Unlike some other tangerines, Honey tangerines contain seeds so to make eating even easier, I like to cut around the core, as you would an apple, making four seedless segments. It is definitely one of my favorite citrus fruits, and that is one of the reasons we’re happy to welcome the Florida-grown Honey tangerines back to the state of California this year after a three-year hiatus.
As you may have noticed, California has been void of any Florida citrus since 2006. This is because, after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the Food and Drug Administration stopped funding for efforts to eradicate canker, a tree disease not harmful to humans that is spread by wind and rain, which the agencies had spent the last 10 years battling in Florida. Canker causes ugly lesions on leaves, stems and fruit, and can cause trees to drop fruit prematurely. Eventually the trees no longer produce fruit.
Since Katrina’s impact had reversed so much of the agencies’ efforts, they instated a limit on shipment of fresh fruit as gifts or fresh oranges, grapefruit and tangerines sent to retail markets in the citrus growing areas, including Arizona, California, Louisiana, Texas, Hawaii, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.
In October 2009 the ban was lifted, and despite the abnormally low temperatures that have affected Florida’s crops, we have secured successful transport and delivery of various Florida citrus that survived, including the Honey tangerine.
I’ve always considered it a gift that citrus is ready to harvest just as cold and flu season rolls around. Honey tangerines are a rich source of vitamin C and also supply B vitamins, which support and increase the rate of metabolism, and beta carotene, which can help prevent against cancer and heart disease. They are also a source of some potassium and manganese.
Honey tangerines are perfect for eating out of hand, but can also be can be added to fruit salad or other cooked dishes. Click here for a steak & citrus salad recipe!
Robbie Sigona is our produce buyer. He works with local farmers and scours the market for the very best in fresh fruits and vegetables — some you won’t find anywhere else.