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freshpoint produce 101 citrus

Produce 101: Citrus

Citrus is anything but basic when used in the kitchen. It can be used all over the menu… use it in pastry with the zest and the juice, use it in the bar, use it in gift baskets, even use the segments in a salad. Adding a pop of citrus juice brightens any dish.


Orange zest adds a lot of flavor!


Produce 101: Citrus — California vs. Florida

One of the most often asked questions I hear is: what’s the biggest difference between California citrus and Florida citrus—and it boils down to appearance.


California citrus is typically picture-perfect, like these oranges. It’s what you think of when you think of citrus: uniformly round, unblemished thick skin, color that’s deep and appropriate to the variety.


California citrus is known to be picture-perfect. The majority of citrus grown in California is used for table fruit.



Florida citrus is a little bit of, can we say, ugly duckling—it’s a little wind-scarred, it has some oil spotting, and the skin is a little thinner.


Florida citrus usually has a more blemished appearance. Beauty is skin deep, these oranges are absolutely delicious, so delicious in fact, they are mostly made into juice!


Why is that?

It’s all about the geography.

In California they have natural windbreaks in the groves from the mountains, this prevents the limbs from rubbing against the immature citrus—which causes the russeting and the wind-scarring.

In Florida, they don’t have that.

The breezes come off the ocean and go straight across the peninsula with no break—so the trees are a little more active, and the fruit gets a little more dinged up, but is mostly just external appearances.

One more difference is California citrus has thicker skin vs. Florida citrus. The skin of a piece of citrus from Florida is noticeably thinner than a California citrus.

As a result, 95% of the Florida orange crop is used in juicing; the vast majority of the California crop is used for table fruit consumption.


freshpoint produce 101 citrus lemon lime orange grapefruit

Produce 101: Citrus – Grades

The USDA has multiple standards across the citrus family.

Orange Grades

Most commonly sold:

  • US Fancy
  • US #1 (Choice)

Less common are:

  • There is also US #2 (Select)
  • US Combination

The above grades refer to California and Arizona oranges. In Florida it’s completely different. They have their own standards with multiple grades.

Lemons & Lime Grades

  • US #1 (Fancy)
  • US #2 (Choice)
  • US Combination

Grapefruit Grades

  • US Fancy
  • US #1
  • US #2

Fancy vs. Choice

What’s the difference? The Fancy fruit is much more uniform, with less  blemished skin, and very little green. The Choice fruit is not as pretty, but the interior of the fruit is just the same–only the exterior is the difference.

Here is a quick illustration of the difference of Fancy vs. Choice oranges. Fancy are more uniform, whereas Choice have some variations of color and shape.


An economical Choice

Typically, Choice fruit is your more economical selection, so if you’re using your fruit whole and you need that skin, spend a little extra and get the Fancy grade.

Produce 101: Citrus –Limes

Let’s talk about limes. Sometimes you’ll see a lime start to yellow. Don’t throw those out or don’t send them back, it just means they’re getting ripe.


produce 101 citrus limes
Don’t discard limes that are turning yellow!

They’re not bad–in fact they taste just the same, so if you’re not using the skin, just hold on to them. A little bit of yellow in your lime isn’t a bad thing– in fact, it’s usually pretty good, just ask our friend, Nicole.


Produce 101: Citrus – Storage and Handling

When you’re storing your citrus, most citrus likes it a little warm. Oranges are the exception, they want to be in the colder part of your refrigerator, so keep them down low and to the back (of your cooler).

Keep them dry and wash them just before you use them. They are very susceptible to bruising, so take just as many as you need out of the case.

Don’t dump them, don’t drop the box, and certainly don’t stack a lot of heavy cases on top–it’ll help maximize the appearance of your citrus.


Dan talks about Produce 101: Citrus


Contact your Marketing Associate about adding citrus to your next order. If you are not a customer, find out how to become one today!

Content provided by Chef Daniel Snowden, the Director of Culinary Development for FreshPoint Central Florida. He has been in the produce industry years almost 20 years and loves getting geeky about food. Follow FreshPoint Central Florida on Facebook and Instagram.


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