Florida Orange Picking
It's Florida citrus season
Florida's orange is one of the most recognizable icons of our state. In addition to bright flavorful oranges, Florida has an abundance of ruby red grapefruit, sweet, tangy tangerines, succulent tangelos, lemons and limes.
As a kid growing up in Florida, I remember almost everyone grew citrus in the front or backyards. Traipsing through the neighborhoods, as kids do, we were never without a juicy, healthy snack. When we would visit my grandparents, my brother and I would run throughout their spacious grove, breathing the sweet fragrance of the blossoms while gorging ourselves with fresh picked fruit.
Picking Florida oranges
Now is the time to pick your favorite citrus or visit your local grove. Growers report a challenging year, but there's still plenty left to fill your bag and enjoy Florida's iconic fruit. If you want to experience this quintessential authentic Florida activity, I highly recommend visiting a Florida orange grove whether you pick your own or not.
Florida Orange Grove
Years ago, orange groves and U-pick operations were more abundant. Nowadays, land development, insurance liability, foreign competition, citrus diseases and other agricultural woes have reduced the number of smaller family-owned businesses. But take heart, your citrus dreams can still come true. I have located a few remaining family operations that offer the U-Pick experience.
Lake County Family Grove
Most U-Pick businesses are mom n’ pop outfits. The bonus is that your visit will involve a drive through the countryside, and the air will be fragrant with the scent of orange blossoms. You will feel as if you have been transported to “Florida’s past.”
Often, the orange grove and property double as home to the owners. You may have to ring a bell or greet the family dog to get anyone’s attention. Once the owner greets you, he or she will indicate where to pick, depending on the season and your preferences. Buckets (resembling pickle buckets) will be lined up outside, generally resting on a luggage tote rack, so you can pull it along as you pick.
Boyett's Citrus Grove, photo courtesy, Diane Bedard
After receiving your instructions, you’ll walk up and down tree-lined aisles looking for the best fruit. For the harder-to-reach fruit a pole with a hook on the end may be provided to make it easier. Just reach and tug. It falls to the ground with a “thump” and you’ll be one or two oranges richer.
Depending on the season and the grower’s selection, there’s plenty to choose from. Usually, from November through April, weather permitting, you’ll find a wide variety. During the holiday season the navel oranges are your best pick. From November through April you can enjoy tangerines, tangelos and grapefruit. Valencia oranges are plentiful from March through April/May.
Bob Johnson, U-Pick Citrus, Ft. Myers
U-Pick Citrus, Ft. Myers
Owned and operated for over 30 years by Bob and Judy Johnson of Fort Myers, this family-owned U-Pick Citrus farm will delight your authentic funny bone.
Follow the funky road signs and dirt road, and you’ll meet Bob Johnson and Little Bob (his dog). You’ll soon be standing in a makeshift open-air eclectic garage and fruit stand. Bob has creatively decorated the corrugated building with a menagerie of collected road signs and license plates surrounded by rows of beautiful citrus.
Bob instructs visitors to fill a five-gallon bucket with whatever fruit is on the trees – oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, lemons or a combination. A full bucket of fruit is $10. Cash only.
Bob and Judy designate one-third of their proceeds to charity and have an honor system if they aren't available. Special added note: No pesticides are used by the Johnsons.
Address: 18971 Misty Morning Lane, Estero (Ft. Myers)
Hours: Wednesday – Saturday 10:00-4:00 pm; closed Sundays, Mondays & Tuesdays
Showcase of Citrus, Clermont
Located just 15 minutes from Orlando, try the Showcase of Citrus. Owner John Arnold’s family has owned Florida citrus and cattle land since 1961. In 1989, John converted 70 acres of the family’s 2,500 acres to U-Pick, with nearly 40 varieties of citrus in addition to other fruit (blackberries, blueberries).
You can pick by the bushel or by the pound. If you pick by the bushel, you’re entitled to another ¼ bushel free. The grove provides carts or you can ride a shuttle if you prefer not to walk.
The Showcase of Citrus also has an Old Tyme Country Store for fresh juice, BBQ, vintage sodas, ice cream and gifts – including an especially good marmalade.
The operation also offers an Eco-tour and Safari shuttling guests through the adjacent ranching operation. From the swamp vehicle, you’ll get an up-high overview of the groves, oak and pine scrub habitat, upland palmetto, cattle and wooded swamps, which serve as the headwaters of the Everglades watershed.
Address: 5010 US Highway 27, Clermont
Open: 7 days a week (when citrus season is over, other fruit will be available)
Hours: 8:00 am – 7:00 pm
Tips for going to a U-Pick Grove
Consider wearing closed shoes and slacks or jeans. Ants are part of Florida’s countryside, so avoid sandals. I recommend wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes from branches and of course, always wear sunscreen. Have fun, you’re in for a “real” Florida treat.
Purchasing Fresh Citrus from the Grove
If you’re not interested in the U-Pick experience but want to purchase fresh fruit, consider visiting a retail establishment connected to a Florida grove. Most are family owned and operated. Below is a list of groves offering Florida citrus.
Picture courtesy of Albritton Fruit Co., Sarasota
Florida Citrus Groves
Albritton Fruit Company, Sarasota
5430 Proctor Road, Sarasota
Al’s Family Farms, Ft. Pierce
(800)-544-3366 or (772)-460-0556
2001 N. Kings Hwy., Ft. Pierce
Boyett's Citrus Attraction, Brooksville
4355 Spring Lake Highway
The Citrus Place, Terra Ceia (no website)
7200 US 19th North, Terra Ceia
Countryside Citrus, Vero Beach
6325 81st Street, Vero Beach
Crisafulli Groves, Merritt Island
5515 N. Courtenay Parkway, Merritt Island
Davidson Brothers, Daytona Beach
248 So. Beach Street, Daytona Beach
Ferris Groves, Floral City
Ferris Groves, Floral City
7607 So. Florida Ave., Floral City
Joshua Citrus, Arcadia
4135 SE County Rd 760, Arcadia
Wall art, Nokomis Groves, Nokomis
Harvey’s Groves, (3 locations) Rockledge, West Melbourne, Cocoa Beach
3700 S. US 1, Rockledge, (321)636-6072
1215 W. New Haven Ave., West Melbourne, (321)952-0994;
3811 N. Atlantic Ave., Cocoa Beach, (321)783-8640; (800)327-9312
Mixon Fruit Farm, Citrus Packaging Area
Mixon Fruit Farm, Bradenton
2525 27th St. East, Bradenton
Neukom Groves, Zephyrhills
5409 Gall Blvd., Zephyrhills
New River Groves, Davie
5660 Griffin Rd., Davie
Many citrus groves allow you to select your fruit
Nokomis Groves, Nokomis
111 So. Albee Farm Rd., Nokomis
Peterson Groves, Vero Beach
3375 66th Ave., Vero Beach
Florida orange groves offer citrus tastings, Policicchio Groves
Policicchio Groves, Merritt Island
5780 N. Courtenay Parkway, Merritt Island
Schacht Groves, Vero Beach
6100 12th St., Vero Beach
Note: Feb-March Schacht Groves provides tours/U-Pick
Wall art, Nokomis Groves, Nokomis
Soggy Acres, Winter Park (email@example.com, honor system)
100 Tuskawilla Rd., Winter Park
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Note: This list is not intended to be inclusive of all Florida citrus retail stores. Please email us your favorite citrus store to Robin@AuthenticFlorida.com