History of Indian River Citrus

Indian River citrus fruit is the most famous and succulent of all the world's oranges and grapefruit. Citrus from Indian River, most would argue, is the best citrus grown in the world - literally. The following information explains the history of citrus in Florida and how it came to Indian River.


Who Planted the first oranges in Indian River County?

Christopher Columbus brought the first orange seeds and seedlings to the New World on his second voyage in 1493. The early Spanish explorers planted the first orange trees around St. Augustine, Florida, sometime between 1513 and 1565. It is believed that Ponce De Leon is the first "farmer" who planted orange tree seeds in the Florida soil.


The earliest groves developed around two sea ports, St. Augustine and Tampa. In 1806, Count Odet Phillippe, who left his native France for the new world, introduced grapefruit to Florida. The state's first grapefruit grove was planted near Tampa in 1823.

In Florida, there are about 750,000 acres of citrus groves and more than 100 million citrus trees. Most citrus is grown in the southern two-thirds of the Florida peninsula, where there is low probability for a freeze. After a series of freezes in the 1980's, citrus growers gradually migrated south and east from central and northern regions. Although Indian River County is just below the "freeze line".

Vintage Florida postcard photo compliments of cardcow.com

 

The "founding fathers" of Indian River County

State Representative Andrew W. Young (who also happened to be Vero's mayor and one of the local movie theater owners), sponsored a bill which would remove Vero from St. Lucie County, thereby creating a new county. After rigorous debate, on a hot afternoon in May, 1925, Indian River County was born, and Vero became the county seat.

Entrepreneurs and farmers like Arthur R. Jones of Range Line Groves began planting citrus in Indian River in the 1940's. Many fruit shippers have come and gone in the county seat of Vero Beach. The family run companies like Hyatt Fruit Company have been around since the forties and are the best companies from which to order your Florida fruit (if we do say so ourselves). 

Arthur R. Jones, citrus entrepreneur and founder of Range Line Groves

 

 

Indian River fruit from Indian River County

The Indian River Citrus District was mapped and described because of the soil conditions that prevail on the eastern seaboard of Florida. It is precisely these reasons that make "Indian River" grapefruit the finest in the world today. The Indian River Citrus District is underlayed by the distinctive Anastasia formation, composed of coquina limestone, which the root system of the citrus trees tap for essential minerals and nutrients during their growing cycle. During the 1920's, the Indian River name had become so well known that growers of citrus in other areas of the State of Florida began describing their fruit as Indian River. 


Why is Indian River citrus so famous?

It's the chemical make-up of soil. Florida's unique sandy soil and subtropical climate have proven to be ideal for growing the seeds that early settlers planted. The soil conditions in Indian River County and along the rest of the eastern seaboard of Florida are perfect for growing sweet juicy oranges and grapefruit.

Vintage Florida Oranges Postcard images Compliments of CardCow.com

Vintage Florida postcard photo compliments of cardcow.com

 

 

The Limestone Layer under Indian River County

Indian River soil is rich in calcium and other minerals that abet citrus groves. The nearness to the salt water of the Atlantic Ocean also has a major bearing on the really exceptional good taste of Indian River citrus, but, most importantly, citrus needs approximately one inch of water per week to bear good citrus.

 

What makes Indian River fruit sweet?

Orange juice is tested for two main attributes -- brix and acid. From these two attributes, the sugar:acid ratio, which determines the flavor of the juice, is determined. Juice must meet minimum standards in order for it to be sold as 100% Florida Orange Juice.

The brix content (mostly soluble sugars) is determined using a hydrometer to measure the specific gravity, which is converted to degrees brix. Then, using a titration method, the percent acid is determined using sodium hydroxide and a phenolphthalein indicator. The ratio of the brix to the acid content can then be calculated. The minimum maturity for oranges varies during the season, but generally it is a minimum of 8.50 brix with a 10.00 to 1 ratio.

 

Vintage Florida Oranges Postcard images Compliments of CardCow.com
Vintage Florida postcard photo compliments of cardcow.com

 

 

What makes Florida Fruit the "Perfect Fruit"?

Florida oranges and grapefruit are fat-free and sodium-free. An excellent source of Vitamin C, a medium-sized orange averages only about 70 calories. Vitamin C is a powerful "antioxidant".

 

Where to Buy Florida Fruit

The best fruit companies in Indian River County are the ones that have a proven track record and have been in business since the golden era of citrus in Vero Beach - the 1940's. Hyatt Fruit Co is a true family business owned and managed by Tom Jones and his daughters. In business since 1946, Hyatt has a local reputation of shipping high quality gift-grade fruit and uncompromising customer service.

Vintage Florida postcard photo compliments of cardcow.com


Glossary of Fruit and Citrus Terms from http://www.floridajuice.com/ and interviews with local farmers in Indian River County.

Acid: The citric acid present in citrus fruit. Also, a percent measurement of the amount of acid present in the juice.

Box A: 1-3/5 bushel, 2 compartment open-top wooden container used in the field to hold citrus fruits during harvesting operations. Also referred to as the equivalent of 90 pounds of oranges, temples or tangelos; 85 pounds of grapefruit; or 95 pounds of tangerines.

Brix The percent of weight of soluble solids (sugars and acids) in a solution measured at sea level at 20 degrees Celsius. The Brix scale determines the percent by weight of soluble solids, with the present minimum of 42-degree Brix indicating that 100 pounds of concentrated juice would contain 42 pounds of soluble solids at a specific temperature.

Carton A 4/5 bushel box or field box.

Crop Estimate A monthly appraisal of crop size, issued by the United States Department of Agriculture. The first estimate of citrus production in announced in early October each year, with updated estimates issued each month through July.

Essence Flavor components obtained in the evaporation process and returned to concentrated juices to heighten the flavor of the processed product.

Field Box Equal to 10 boxes of fruit or 16 bushels.

FCOJ Frozen concentrated orange juice.

Pulp The juice vesicles or sacs in citrus fruit. Pulp is removed from fruit juice before the water is removed to make concentrate. Some pulp may be added back to concentrated juice to present the appearance of fresh-squeezed juice.

Tub A field container of a capacity approximately equal to that of 10 boxes (see boxes); or 900 pounds of oranges, temples, or tangelos; 850 pounds of grapefruit, or 950 pounds of tangerines.

USDA Grade A The premium standard of quality set by the US Department of Agriculture for color, flavor and the absence of defects in citrus fruit or its juices. Florida Grade A standards for frozen concentrated orange juice are higher than the USDA Grade A standards.