When we think of citrus fruit it usually brings to mind all things summer: sunny days, lying on the beach, refreshing iced drinks, hammocks, bright colors … Florida.
The funny thing, though, is that the citrus season for a few of our most favorite sun-kissed fruits takes place during the country’s chilliest months. While the rest of us are bundling up for brisk weather, Sun Belt citrus growers watch as cooler weather brings out the color in a handful of their most coveted seasonal specialties.
Citrus lovers are especially fond of mandarins because many varietals are seedless and easy to peel. Clementines, also called “Cuties” or “Sweeties,” are very popular and their U.S. season runs from mid-November to mid-March.
Mandarins are very hardy and withstand cooler temperatures than sweet oranges do, which is why you see the best U.S. vine-ripened harvests in the winter.
Tangerines and tangelos are also cold-weather bloomers often grown in the eastern corner of the Sun Belt, which extends from Florida all the way to California.
Pixie tangerines ripen in the beginning of summer, as one may expect, but Fairchild varietals and Orlando and Minneola tangelos are at their best in the winter, between October and April, depending on the fruit.
<strong>Year-Round Citrus Stars</strong>
When it comes to the rest of the citrus clan – lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruit – there’s a varietal for every season.
Limes are harvested all year long, as are the most common types of lemons. Navel and Valencia oranges, meanwhile, have rolling harvest times that cover the entire year, with Cara Cara Naval and Moro oranges cropping up (heh heh) from December through May. Grapefruit varietals ripen in similar fashion, although Texas Rio Star, Rio Red, Sweetie and Melo Gold varieties become pluck-worthy in winter.
<a title="ATG Stores Homepage" href="http://www.atgstores.com/default.aspx" target="_blank">ATGStores.com</a> hopes you get the most out of this year’s citrus season.