BARTOW, Fla. – With Florida Grapefruit season in full swing, the unique taste of Florida-grown citrus is now available in stores across the country.
But, for those who wish to enjoy the sweeter side of nature, a little patience goes a long way.
As temperatures dip, Florida grapefruit grow sweeter and juicier, reaching peak season beginning in January.
It’s at peak season when Florida Grapefruit really shine.
Extra time spent in Florida’s sub-tropical climate enhances its sweet taste, creating a grapefruit that appeals to a wide range of palates.
“Many regions around the world produce grapefruit,” said Doug Ackerman, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus. “But the same thing that makes Florida everyone’s favorite travel destination is what makes our grapefruit amazing. Our climate can’t be beat.”
Much of Florida’s grapefruit is grown in the Indian River region of the state. Located on the east coast of Florida, the Indian River stretches more than 200 miles south from Daytona to West Palm Beach.
The area is home to the Anastasia Formation, a geologic formation composed of sand and coquina limestone. The formation’s positioning just below ground allows the root system of citrus trees to tap into essential minerals and nutrients during the growing cycle.
Combined with a flat terrain and high water table, these unique attributes create ideal growing conditions for grapefruit and contribute to the fruit’s high quality.
While the landscape is beautiful, the fruit isn’t always.
“The sun, humidity and rains that help enhance the taste of grapefruit during Florida’s growing season can blemish its exterior appearance,” said Mike Garavaglia, a Florida Grapefruit grower and packer based in the Indian River region. “I like to remind people that while Florida Grapefruit may not look as pretty on the outside, it certainly tastes better.”
The proof is in the response Florida Grapefruit receives worldwide, said Michael Schadler, director of international marketing at the FDOC.
Florida growers ship their fruit across the country and around the globe. More than 57 percent of Florida Grapefruit is shipped out of the United States with Japan being the biggest export market.
Besides great taste, one of the key reasons so many people enjoy Florida Grapefruit is its nutritional benefits. Rich in vitamin C, just half of a medium grapefruit fulfills 100 percent of the daily recommended value.
Because the season is long and the taste of the fruit varies throughout the season, Florida Grapefruit is also a versatile ingredient in many dishes.
“Early in the season, when its sugar content is lower, Florida Grapefruit is a great tangy compliment to sweet or salty dishes. Year-round, 100% Florida Grapefruit Juice can be enjoyed alone or as an ingredient,” Schadler said. “But, when Florida Grapefruit is in peak season, there is no better way to enjoy it than with a spoon – no sugar needed.”
While this year’s Florida Grapefruit crop is projected to be down slightly, with 15 million boxes expected by the end of the season, there are indicators that grapefruit production is stabilizing after several years of steep declines. Those declines have been in large part due to the devastating effect citrus greening has had on the industry.
A bacterial disease spread by a tiny insect, citrus greening has no known cure. However, growers are continuing to find innovative treatments to sustain production numbers and improve the quality of Florida Grapefruit, and millions of dollars are being poured into scientific research.
“Despite facing enormous challenges, Florida’s citrus industry has remained resilient,” Ackerman said. “Florida Grapefruit still offers the best experience to consumers – something to keep in mind as we approach peak Florida Grapefruit season.”
About the Florida Department of Citrus
The Florida Department of Citrus is an executive agency of Florida government charged with the marketing, research and regulation of the Florida citrus industry. Its activities are funded by a tax paid by growers on each box of citrus that moves through commercial channels. The industry employs nearly 76,000 people, provides an annual economic impact close to $9 billion to the state, and contributes hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues that help support Florida’s schools, roads and health care services. For more information about the Florida Department of Citrus, please visit FloridaCitrus.org.