Each spring as warm breezes arrive in the citrus groves of Florida and California, the orange trees come into bloom. Eager to greet these blooms are millions of honeybees, flying out of beehives carefully spaced among the trees. The trees are pollinated as the bees collect the sweet nectar, which is then converted into delicious orange blossom honey.
A SHORT HISTORY OF ORANGE TREES
Orange trees are native to southeast Asia. It's not a wild fruit tree, and was produced by crossing mandarin and pomelo trees. The earliest record of a sweet orange is from 314 BC in ancient China.
Traders brought orange trees to Italy and Spain by the 9th century, and Spanish explorers then carried them over to the Americas. Columbus may have planted orange trees in Hispanola as part of his second voyage in 1493.
Later, Spanish missionaries carried orange trees northward into Florida and then westward into Arizona, California and Texas. French explorers most likely planted some orange trees in Louisiana. But California and Florida proved to have the most favorable climates. In southern California and central Florida, vast orange groves soon took root.
BEEKEEPERS AND ORCHARD OWNERS - A SWEET PARTNERSHIP
Some citrus trees, including many popular orange varieties, are self-pollinating. But cross pollination of the trees increases both the size of the crop and the size of the fruit.
Honeybees are the most efficient pollinators on earth. A honeybee can visit up to 5,000 flowers per day. Given that a healthy beehive may have between 20,000 and 40,000 bees, that translates into a lot of daily pollination.
So beekeepers rent their beehives to orchard owners each year for the duration of the blooming season. The beehives will be spread throughout the orange groves in early April.
DID YOU KNOW? Large oranges and grapefruit can take over a year to mature and ripen. So you can have blossoms and fruit on the tree at the same time.
Orange blossoms are very fragrant, and when they open up, the bees come a buzzing. For the next 4 to 6 weeks, bees and blossoms get together. When the flowering season ends, it's time for the bees to go home.
Sometime in May, the beehives are loaded onto trucks and carried back to a bee yard. The wooden frames are carefully removed from each beehive and then the honey gets harvested in the beekeeper's "honey house."
It's a win-win for all. The orchard owner gets more yield, the beekeeper gets paid for pollination services, and we get sweet oranges and sweet honey.
THE COLOR AND FLAVOR OF ORANGE BLOSSOM HONEY
Orange blossom honey ranges from light amber to extra light amber in color. California tends to produce a lighter colored honey because sweet orange trees are the primary nectar source for the bees.
In Florida, different citrus varieties (oranges, tangerines, lemons, limes and grapefruit) may be located in the same general area. Since honeybees will forage up to 3 miles from the hive, even if the beehives are placed in the middle of an orange grove, bees can still bring back nectar from other sources.
DID YOU KNOW? Honeybees collect nectar from 1 to 2 million blossoms to make a pound of honey.
The flavor of orange blossom honey is very sweet. Then, almost as an afterthought, you may pick up subtle citrus notes. This orange flavor will vary from year to year and from location to location.
GREAT PAIRINGS FOR ORANGE BLOSSOM HONEY
Because of its sweet profile, a little orange blossom honey goes a long way. The assertive flavor also stands up well in baking.
Here are some of our favorite recipes for using orange blossom honey.
- Yogurt & Honey with Fresh Fruit
- Honey Panna Cotta
- Cranberry-Orange Muffins
- Orange & Honey Butter
- Baked Apple Pancake
- Zesty Orange Chicken Wings
- Honey Spice Bread
- Candied Ginger Cookies (with Almond Flour)
If you come up with a great pairing that uses orange blossom honey, send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll add it to our list.
WHERE TO BUY ORANGE BLOSSOM HONEY
If you are searching for "orange blossom honey near me" then you would need to live in southern California or central Florida. Otherwise, if you are looking for raw orange blossom honey for sale, then all you need is a computer with an internet connection. We have plenty of Florida orange blossom honey available, and this is truly some of the best orange blossom honey you can buy - and at a great price. Just click below.