You cannot read or hear anything about Florida Citrus without noticing the term Honeybells. “Honeybells are the sweetest, Honeybells are the juiciest, Honeybell Oranges are simply the best!” Well, there is evidence that some, if not all, of that is true. But to begin with, what the heck are they?

Mystery And A Strange Beginning

According to every expert and every scientist involved with growing citrus, the Honeybell isn’t even an orange! This reddish-orange colored citrus fruit certainly looks like a bell shaped orange. It has a relatively thin skin, and it tastes like the best eating orange you’ve ever encountered. But it is, strictly speaking, a Tangelo- a Minneola Tangelo, not an orange. The original Tangelos were probably (this is where the mystery comes in) developed in China more than 3000 years ago. They were hybrids or combination’s of Tangerines (closely related to the Mandarin Orange) and either Grapefruit or Pommelos. It took 3000 years of cultivation and enjoyable consumption before the specific type called Minneola Tangelo was created in 1931 by scientists working for the United States Department of Agriculture. The specific combination of the Darcy Tangerine and Duncan Grapefruit caused the brilliant result we now know as Honeybells.

So, How Did A Tangelo Become An Orange?

From its creation in 1931 the Minneola Tangelo was very popular with citrus growers. Navel Oranges and Grapefruit were popular, too, and better known citrus varieties to the general buying public. The new, somewhat strange sounding Minneolas were slow to catch on. Then, after the war in 1945, a gift fruit shipper and citrus store owner named Ed Cushman was introduced to the fruit for the first time. “What the heck are these?” Ed asked when Nicholas Torgerson saw the red-orange, funny looking oranges (Nicholas Torgerson thought). Everyone agreed they were the sweetest “oranges” they had ever tasted. “Sweet as honey and shaped like a bell!” Honeybells were born that instant! Being an innovative marketer, Ed did not argue with or correct customers, who, seeing what appeared to be Honeybell shaped oranges that were easy to peel, had only a minimum of seeds and ate like the sweetest tasting orange they had ever encountered, asked for them as HoneyBell Oranges

Now The Sugar Belle

In late 2009, the University of Florida released its first-ever cultivator to commercial citrus growers and named it the Sugar Belle. Everyone in Florida is excited about its future, as it is a hybrid or cross of the Mandarin Orange family, combining the Sweet Clementine with the Minneola Tangelo or Honeybell. They look like Honeybells and the flavor is described as very deep, very sweet but with a good balance of acidity. “The best ever!” say most of the old timers who have been introduced to the Sugar Belle. To top that, it promises to bear earlier, in December, than the Honeybell, which does not peak till January, thus assuring a supply for seasonal giving.

Source by Jim Renko

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