Mother Nature was good to us this season with ample rainfall and very little irrigation needed during last summer. The quality of the fruit appears to be outstanding. The Mineola Tangelo -AKA the honeybell- is known for its sweetness and shape–a cross between a Duncan Grapefruit and a Dancy Tangerine. In 1931, three gentlemen named W.T. Swingle, T. R. Robinson, and E.M. Savage of the U. S. Department of Agriculture produced the honeybell–thereby, earning a prominent place in the “Citrus Hall of Fame” and in the hearts of citrus lovers everywhere.
Someone once described the honeybell as a “glorified orange.” Not true. This is a hybrid that actually improves upon nature–much juicier than most varieties of oranges, combining the tartness of grapefruit with the sweetness of tangerines. It is often said to be “zipper-skinned,” peeling as easily as a banana, and almost seedless. It is also a relatively rare fruit, predominately grown in the Indian River district of Florida, known for its remarkable soil -which is a mixture of limestone, bits of coral, and broken seashells.
The area lies above the Anastasia formation (no connection to the unfortunate daughter of the last Czar, Nicholas).
The trick now is to know when the fruit is ready for the pickers. I think we all at one time selected the prettiest fruit in the produce aisle only to find it tasteless. Citrus is especially hard to judge if it is ready to be plucked for shipping. That is the time for the experienced grower to depend on the hydrometer, which is an indispensable tool.
The sugar density of the citrus can be measured by testing the specific gravity of its fluid when squeezed into a long, tube-like cup. The hydrometer (which looks like a thermometer with a weighted bulb at its base) floats and rises higher according to the concentration of sugar–showing the specific gravity on its markings.
Large commercial operations often harvest all the fruit at once. Our grower and his assistants wield the hydrometer many times during the ripening period, and sometimes return to the same tree to gather only the fruit that meets their high standards.
This leads to a topic important to all of us at Rent Mother Nature,the role played by family farms in American agriculture. Every so often, the newspaper will refer to the plight of the family farm. No matter how it all will evolve, we will miss the old family farms and the fact that the land won’t be passed on to the kids who often have other plans anyway!
Shortly after the Second World War, chemical companies promoted the extensive use of fertilizers and pesticides. Harvest yields exploded, and, naturally, the practice spread. Little was known about the long-term effects of such farming. Now we know. Returning to the use of organic fertilizers and earth-friendly pesticides as part of the IPM (Integrated Pest Management) protects the environment and supports the soil, while providing better nutrition. The farms we work with adhere to these practices.
Your friends at Rent Mother Nature®