The state of Florida is famous for it’s huge orange groves, many of which are located in and around the Orlando and Clermont areas. Picking oranges is a popular activity for both tourists and locals here, who hand-pick their own luscious sweet oranges, grapefruit, tangerines and lemons at one of the many area u-pick farms. Picking oranges is a great way to get outside and enjoy the Florida sunshine while learning about how oranges are grown.
Orange Season in Florida
While citrus fruit can be purchased in Florida throughout the year, the picking season for most varieties of Florida oranges is approximately November to mid-March. During this time popular oranges such as Navel, Temple, Hamlin and Blood are ripe and ready for harvest, while Valencia oranges are harvested from late March through June.
The actual harvest dates and crop availability varies slightly each year, depending on growing conditions, weather and demand. Before heading out to pick your own oranges, check with the local tourist office or the orange grove to confirm dates and hours of operation. Prepare for you orange picking trip by wearing loose, comfortable clothing, sturdy shoes (for climbing ladders in the groves) and a hat to provide shade from the Florida sun. Pack sunscreen and lots of water and be prepared to get a little bit dirty, since the orange groves can be muddy, particularly following a rainfall.
Clermont’s Showcase of Citrus
If you are looking to combine orange picking with other adventures, the Showcase of Citrus in Clermont makes a great family destination. Open from dawn to dusk daily (including all major holidays), visitors here can sample all the varieties of citrus before heading out to the u-pick groves. Grapefruit is available year-round, while most other fruits including key limes, lemons and navel oranges are ready from October to March.
There is an on-site country store where shoppers can buy all things citrus, including homemade orange jams, jellies and sauces. There are fresh organic eggs from the farm along with souvenirs like t-shirts and canvas shopping sacks, and the shaded picnic area makes a great spot to relax and enjoy some fresh-squeezed orange juice.
Along with a semi-organic u-pick citrus grove, this 2,500 acre working ranch has cattle and a huge naturalized swamp filled with otters, alligators, wild turkeys and coyotes. Adventurous guests can take a guided backwoods tour in the ‘swamp-buggy’, a monster truck that ferries passengers deep into the Florida swamp. Be warned, however, that this mud-filled ‘eco-tour’ will leave you wet and covered with swamp mud! For more information on Showcase of Citrus, visit http://www.showcaseofcitrus.com
Other Area Orange Groves
Lake Apshawa Farm, Luke’s Grove and Mark’s U-Pick all offer seasonal pick-your-own oranges in the Clermont area. Ridge Island Groves in nearby Haines City also encourages visitors to pick their own Navel, Page and Valencia oranges from November to April [https://www.ridgeislandgroves.com/varieties/].
For an up-to-date list of all the area orange groves that offer orange picking, check with the Lake County Welcome Center or ask at a local farmer’s market http://www.lakecountyfl.gov/visitors/contact_us.aspx
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