As a born-and-raised Floridian, I hate the winter. I find very little joy in a season with less sun and colder temperatures. What the heck is long underwear? I refuse to learn because I’d be letting winter win and I won’t let that happen.
One of the only redeeming things about winter is citrus fruit season. Many citrus fruits are available year-round, but in Florida, the peak season for some of the most popular varieties of citrus is in the colder months of winter. If you’re in Florida and haven’t sampled the local citrus, you’re sorely missing out on an important—and delicious—part of Florida’s history, culture, and environment.
In celebration of these magnificent fruits, here’s a very objective ranking, from worst to best, of some of the citrus that I’ve eaten. I’ve also added a fun fact about each of them for your trivia-loving pleasure.
Sour, bitter balls of misery. To all the grapefruit eaters: why do you do this to yourself? Is there not a more efficient way to self-sabotage than to purchase and consume a grapefruit? What purpose does intentionally ruining your day serve? Please eat a fruit that is not soul-sucking.
Fun fact: I was hard-pressed to find anything nice to say about grapefruit. However, I did find out that February 26, 2021 was Grapefruit Day, the commemoration of 50 years of grapefruit trade between Florida and Japan. So there’s some interesting history for you.
Grapefruit’s grandfather, and tastes like it too. Pomelos only get a higher ranking because they can grow absolutely enormous and that’s cool.
Fun fact: Pomelos are one of the four (or five, depending on which scientist you ask) ancestral species of citrus. This means that, unlike many of the commercially available citrus varieties today, pomelos are not hybrids of two or more fruits.
Lemons are ranked in the middle because on their own, their sourness makes them not too pleasant to eat on their own. But paired with the right partners, lemons can do magical things. For example (as if you needed any), a glass of homemade lemonade can brighten up the worst of days, and suburban moms love themselves some lemon bars!
Fun fact: Carl Linnaeus, the creator of the modern taxonomic system, believed lemons to be a variety of citron. Current scientific knowledge supports a different idea: lemons and citrons are distinct species, with lemons being a citron-sour orange hybrid fruit.
The most popular varieties of lime are the Persian lime and the Key lime. They are available all year thanks to global trade, but Florida Key limes actually peak during the summer (though most Key limes in American markets today hail from Mexico). Limes are the perfect way to cut through a rich dish with their tart juice. They also make a refreshing addition to water, if you’re not into drinking unflavored water. I’ve ranked them above lemons because sometimes lemons smell like cleaning products and I don’t always want to be reminded of my bathroom when I’m eating fruit.
Fun fact: Key lime pie is the official state pie of Florida!
The quintessential Florida fruit and the queen of variety! Honeybell, Jaffa orange, blood orange, oh my! Images of oranges are plastered all over signs near the state border, rest stops, and tourist traps. An entire county bears the name of the fruit, and it is well deserving of the honors. Modern oranges are hybrids of the pomelo and mandarin and come in many varieties. Some of them include the navel orange—popular for their seedless pulp and easy-peel rind—and the bitter orange, which is an important ingredient in the Cuban marinade, mojo. Pictured below are Valencia oranges harvested from a little tree in my backyard.
Fun fact: Only around 10 percent of Florida oranges are sold for eating. Where is the majority of the orange crop going, then? They’re squeezed into juice!
Tangerines are pretty much perfect. They are both sweet and very easy to peel. The section come apart so cleanly that if tangerines had bones, the fruit would just fall off. They are typically small in size, which makes them an amazing packable afternoon snack. On top of that, they are seedless, which means no stopping to spit out bitter seeds you accidentally crunched while minding your citrus-eating business. There is not a single bad thing about tangerines.
Fun fact: Tangerines are actually a type of mandarin orange. Mandarins are the ancestors of many citrus fruits including oranges and lemons, which places tangerines at the head of the citrus dinner table. A well-deserved position, if you ask me.
I hope you enjoyed this very unbiased ranking of citrus fruits! If you want to try some other citrus varieties, try hitting up a nearby Asian market, where you will probably be able to find the Buddha’s hand citron or yuzu fruit. Also, be sure to support your local orange groves! Florida’s citrus growers have seen increased difficulty as diseases have severely damaged many groves across the state. Shop local and support your growers!