Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for March, 2014

By Gary R. Mormino, Florida Humanities Council, Tampa Bay Times, March 6, 2014

“A long line of muses has chronicled the orange’s journey over the centuries from China to India, Persia to Spain, and Hispaniola to Florida. The orange has stirred the imaginations of Franciscan friars, country fiddlers and multinational conglomerates. More than anything else, Florida’s signature fruit has defined the Sunshine State and its promise as the New Mediterranean.

“But today the orange is in peril. An incurable disease called “citrus greening” has swept through Florida, affecting every orange-producing county. This crisis has been called “the most serious threat in (citrus) history,” “a looming disaster many Floridians do not know about,” and “an existential threat.”

“The disease, also known as Yellow Dragon because it was first detected in China, looms larger than any previous threat to the industry — including devastating hurricanes, the sprawl of development across agricultural land and the expensive war of attrition to eradicate citrus canker. After marauding through orange groves in China and Brazil, the disease, a bacterium spread by a tiny flying insect called a psyllid, appeared in Florida in 2005. Oranges become misshapen and bitter — and eventually the affected trees die.

“But Florida’s grove owners are resilient. They have battled the Mediterranean fruit fly and killer freezes and weathered the economic effects of wars and depressions. Still, the present challenge is so serious that scientists and state officials have debated the ethics and efficacy of genetic modification, of altering the orange’s DNA in order to save it.”

Mormino then traces the perils and successes through the decades and concludes:

“In January 1981, Florida shivered as the first of the decade’s Alberta Clippers plunged statewide temperatures well below freezing. By the end of the decade, three more disastrous freezes had ravaged Florida’s groves, killing 90 percent of Lake County’s orange trees. The beneficiaries of this disaster were Florida real estate developers and Brazil. This marked a milestone in citrus history: Brazil replaced Florida as the world’s leading orange producer. Astonishingly, 100,000 acres of Lake County citrus land was transformed into housing tracts, shopping centers and nurseries. An Orlando banker summarized the opportunity: “We stopped picking oranges and started picking tourists.”

“From the late 1940s onward, advertising songs and jingles about the orange, fresh from the crate and frozen concentrate out of the can, captivated Americans: “Breakfast without orange juice is like a day without sunshine!” “Come to the Florida Sunshine Tree!” and “Orange juice — It’s not just for breakfast anymore.”

“Orange juice became an integral part of the standard breakfast, along with bacon and eggs and toast. But in recent years, more and more Americans are beginning their days without a glass of orange juice. OJ’s greatest threat may not even be citrus greening, but rather changing tastes.

“Illustrating this point, a journalist recently posed the question: “Just when did orange juice — loaded with nutrients from vitamin C to folic acid — become the drink from hell?” In truth, OJ is brimming not only with vitamin C but carbohydrates, the arch villain of South Beach dieters and concerned pediatricians. Orange juice, moreover, holds little mystique with young Americans who typically skip breakfast, preferring a carbonated soda, vitamin-enhanced water, or an espresso doppio.

“Unfolding over six centuries, the story of Florida citrus is a complicated tale involving great contrasts and trajectories: old groves and new perils, small family farms and global competition, citrus barons whose names emblazon athletic fields, and the largely forgotten men and women who pruned, picked and packed the oranges.

“Threatened and squeezed by developers, foreign competition, an incurable disease, global warming, and hard freezes, the future of the orange in Florida is uncertain. But amidst tumult and change, one thing remains certain: a glass of freshly squeezed Florida orange juice is pure elixir, the proper drink for a dream state.”

Read the entire article here:

http://www.tampabay.com/news/perspective/floridas-endangered-orange/2168985

Advertisements

Read Full Post »