Enormous oranges littered the ground beneath the trees of a family-owned Florida citrus grove. The waste-not person in me thought, “They’re not picking them fast enough. What a shame.” But my thoughts were answered by the woman offering a farm tour.
“Here at Dooley Groves, we leave all fallen fruit on the ground. It acts as excellent compost for the trees. Please don’t pick up any fallen fruit.”
This tidbit of information was great to know, and my estimation of the farm promptly grew by several notches. And then I saw the cow barrel. Yes, they save all their citrus waste for the nearby cows who love it.
We were instructed to not pick the green-bottomed fruit on trees as it’s affected by a disease that must be treated by steaming the tree at 125 degrees to kill the bacteria.
There’s a machine they have at the grove that can steam two trees at a time. All they need is a few seconds of the steam and the bacteria is wiped out. What a huge investment, to fight a disease that has affected every grove in Florida for the past few years.
But the steaming is well worth it, when you see the trees that are at risk, the yield from the grove and the products that come from it. I’m a big fan of citrus and the many wonderful things you can do with citrus peels.
We love picking juicing oranges to use in our hand-lever juicer. This varietal is ripe when the oranges start to turn brown.
But the red grapefruit is spectacular.
I had never been to a citrus grove until we visited one a few years ago with our children. I’m happy to know they have learned much about where their citrus comes from, a valuable lesson in appreciating food, how it’s grown and harvested, and how to support local agriculture wherever they are.
Walking through the rows of laden trees was such a privilege, with orange blossoms overwhelming the senses. Agri-tourism, especially on organic farms, is so important to support and take part in. Many of the groves we’ve visited recently are just barely making ends meet. Seeking them out and paying to pick your own fruit and veggies, is one of the best ways to support our farms.
And the honeybees, of course, will thank you with their honey, later.
What farms have you recently visited and enjoyed?