The Florida orange season will be coming to a close soon, so it’s time to pick your favorite citrus or visit your local grove to grab the remaining fruit. Growers report a challenging year, but there's still plenty left to finish off the season.
Florida's orange is one of the most recognizable icons of our state. And in addition to bright flavorful oranges, Florida has an abundance of ruby red grapefruit, sweet, tangy tangerines, succulent tangelos, lemons and limes.
As a kid growing up in Florida, I remember almost everyone grew citrus in the front or backyards. Traipsing through the neighborhoods, as kids do, we were never without a juicy, healthy snack. When our family would visit my grandparents, my brother and I would run throughout their spacious grove, breathing the sweet fragrance of the blossoms while gorging ourselves with fresh picked fruit.
The experience of being in an orange grove and picking my own delectable fruit is something I still crave to this day.
If you want to experience this quintessential authentic Florida activity, I highly recommend visiting a Florida orange grove, whether you pick your own or not.
Years ago, orange groves and even "u-pick" operations were more abundant. Nowadays, land development, insurance liability, foreign competition, citrus diseases and other agricultural woes have reduced the number of smaller family-owned businesses.
But take heart: Your citrus dreams can still come true. I've located a few remaining family operations that offer the U-Pick experience.
Most u-pick businesses are mom 'n’ pop outfits. A bonus is that your visit often will involve a drive through the countryside, and if it is springtime the air will be fragrant with the scent of orange blossoms. You will feel as if you have been transported to Florida’s past.
Often, the orange grove and property double as home to the owners. You may have to ring a bell or greet the family dog to get anyone’s attention. Once the owner greets you, he or she will indicate where to pick, depending on the season and your preferences. Buckets (resembling pickle buckets) will be lined up outside, generally resting on a luggage tote rack, so you can pull it along as you pick.
After receiving your instructions, you’ll walk up and down tree-lined aisles looking for the best fruit. For the harder-to-reach fruit, a pole with a hook on the end may be provided to make it easier. Just reach and tug. It falls to the ground with a “thump” and you’ll be one or two oranges richer.
Depending on the season and the grower’s selection, there’s plenty to choose from. Usually, from November through April, weather permitting, you’ll find a wide variety. During the holiday season, the navel oranges are your best pick. From November through April you can enjoy tangerines, tangelos and grapefruit. Valencia oranges are plentiful from March through April/May.
U-Pick Citrus, Ft. Myers
Owned and operated for more than 30 years by Bob and Judy Johnson of Fort Myers, this family-owned u-pick citrus farm will delight tickle your Authentic Florida funny bone.
Follow the funky road signs and dirt road, and you’ll meet Bob Johnson and Little Bob (his dog). You’ll soon be standing in a makeshift open-air eclectic garage and fruit stand. Bob has creatively decorated the corrugated building with a menagerie of collected road signs and license plates surrounded by rows of beautiful citrus.
Bob instructs visitors to fill a five-gallon bucket with whatever fruit is on the trees – oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, lemons or a combination. A full bucket of fruit is $10. Cash only.
Bob and Judy designate one-third of their proceeds to charity and have an honor system if they aren't available. Special added note: No pesticides are used by the Johnsons.
Address: 18971 Misty Morning Lane, Ft. Myers
Hours: Wednesday – Saturday 10:00-4:00 pm; Sunday 12:00-4:00 pm; closed Mondays, Tuesdays
The Showcase of Citrus
Located just 15 minutes from Orlando, try the Showcase of Citrus. Owner John Arnold’s family has owned Florida citrus and cattle land since 1961. In 1989, John converted 70 acres of the family’s 2,500 acres to U-Pick, with nearly 40 varieties of citrus in addition to other fruit (blackberries, blueberries).
You can pick by the bushel or by the pound. If you pick by the bushel, you’re entitled to another ¼ bushel free. The grove provides carts or you can ride a shuttle if you prefer not to walk.
The Showcase of Citrus also has an Old Tyme Country Store for fresh juice, BBQ, vintage sodas, ice cream and gifts – including an especially good marmalade.
The operation also offers an Eco-tour and Safari shuttling guests through the adjacent ranching operation. From the swamp vehicle, you’ll get an up-high overview of the groves, oak and pine scrub habitat, upland palmetto, cattle and wooded swamps, which serve as the headwaters of the Everglades watershed.
Address: 5010 US Highway 27, Clermont
Open: 7 days a week (when citrus season is over, other fruit will be available)
Hours: 8:00 am – 7:00 pm
Tips for going to a U-Pick Grove
Consider wearing closed shoes and slacks or jeans. Ants are part of Florida’s countryside, so avoid sandals. I recommend wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes from branches and, of course, always wear sunscreen. Have fun, you’re in for a “real” Florida treat.
Purchasing Fresh Citrus from the Grove
If you’re not interested in the u-pick experience but want to purchase fresh fruit, consider visiting a retail establishment connected to a Florida grove. Most are family owned and operated.
Albritton Fruit Company, Sarasota www.albrittonfruit.com
5430 Proctor Road, Sarasota
Al’s Family Farms, Ft. Pierce www.alsfamilyfarms.com/info/tour.php
(800)-544-3366 or (772)-460-0556
2001 N. Kings Hwy., Ft. Pierce
The Citrus Place, Terra Ceia (no website)
7200 US 19th North, Terra Ceia
Countryside Citrus, Vero Beach www.countrysidecitrus.com
6325 81st Street, Vero Beach
Crisafulli Groves, Merritt Island www.awcrisafulligroves.com
5515 N. Courtenay Parkway, Merritt Island
Davidson Brothers, Daytona Beach, www.davidsonbros.com
248 So. Beach Street, Daytona Beach
Ferris Groves, Floral City www.ferrisgroves.com
7607 So. Florida Ave., Floral City
Joshua Citrus, Arcadia, www.joshuacitrus.com
4135 SE County Rd 760
Arcadia, FL 34266
Harvey’s Groves, (3 locations) Rockledge, West Melbourne, Cocoa Beach
3700 S. US 1, Rockledge, (321)636-6072
1215 W. New Haven Ave., West Melbourne, (321)952-0994;
3811 N. Atlantic Ave., Cocoa Beach, (321)783-8640; (800)327-9312
Mixon Fruit Farm, Bradenton www.mixon.com
2525 27th St. East, Bradenton
New River Groves, Davie, www.newrivergroves.com
5660 Griffin Rd., Davie
Nokomis Groves, Nokomis www.nokomisgroves.com
111 So. Albee Farm Rd., Nokomis
Peterson Groves, Vero Beach www.petersongroves.com
3375 66th Ave., Vero Beach
Schacht Groves, Vero Beach, www.schachtgroves.com
6100 12th St., Vero Beach
Note: Feb-March Schacht Groves provides tours/U-Pick
Soggy Acres, Winter Park (email@example.com, honor system)
100 Tuskawilla Rd., Winter Park
Note: This list is not intended to be inclusive of all Florida citrus retail stores. Please email your favorite citrus store to Robin@AuthenticFlorida.com so we can keep updating the list!
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