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Facing the facts of hurricane damage

October 13, 2017
By JOYCE COMINGORE - Garden Club of Cape Coral ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

While eating breakfast with friends recently, I looked over at the other people eating there. Newspapers were available to read. I was struck by the fact that you could serve two purposes by eating out. No need to subscribe to the paper, one could just read it and have breakfast too by eating out. Some just read it on line. Anyway, the headline that caught my eye was the humorous observation, "Citrus industry squeezed by Irma." The play on words struck my funny bone, as it was supposed to do. Gently placing the seriousness of our obvious situation out there, it drove home Florida's big problem.

Florida's biggest industries are their citrus and sugar cane. When the hurricane hit our top five citrus producing counties (DeSoto, Polk, Hendry, Highlands and Hardy), it impacted our citrus production, affecting the financial wellbeing of growers, workers, handlers of products and businesses dependent on citrus. Lost wages mean less shopping and spending for merchants. The cycle of economy.

Over the years we have been faced with many perils about losing our citrus industry, with freezes, citrus greening and other diseases threatening it. The industry has always found ways to divert the problems. Freezes caused the industry to move planting trees further south, diseases were overcome by developing a new hybrid, but now, the ripened fruit has been blown off, rotting on the ground, creating an expensive mess. Worse yet, the trees have been blown over, uprooted; the treasured trees on which our future crops depended, all gone. Flooding, also, has killed many trees. It is estimated that 70 percent of our battered fields and groves were destroyed.

It's not just our taste for orange juice, but related industry jobs, the pickers, processors, caretakers, shippers, the bookkeepers and other workers necessary for producing that juice. Ninety percent of Florida's orange crop becomes orange juice. The growers were counting on this year's heavy crop to fill the financial gap created by the last 10 years. Although Florida is the number one producer, oranges also come to us from Arizona. California, Hawaii, Louisiana, Texas and Brazil. So, there is no loss of availability, just an increased cost. Consumer interest in its juices and fruits has been declining. Prices have been going higher over the past years, causing consumers to cut back. I saw where the cost could now be $8 a gallon. Being raised in the north, I only got an orange at Christmas time, in the toe of my stocking. My mouth craves the citrus taste, though. There will be a compromise.

Rebuilding takes workers, seasonal workers for planting and harvesting. These "guest" workers come from Mexico and southern countries through a federal program known as H-2A. Undocumented immigrant workers fear deportation. Hopefully there are enough workers. Federal aid is slow in coming, we need an act of Congress. In the meantime, growers turn to blueberries (in the north) and strawberries. They need more than one crop now to survive.

We all know what an orange is, a modified berry, a seasonal tropical to semi-tropical fruit, a flowering evergreen belonging to the hesperidium genus of plants. Flowers are white and wonderfully fragrant.

Oranges are believed to have come from Southeast Asia around 4,000 B.C., and taken to Africa by travelers. Romans found it on their soil by 200 B.C. Portugal came up with a new variety, Portugal orange. Christopher Columbus was said to have brought the seeds to America during his second voyage in 1493.

By 1820, St. Augustine had grooves thriving in America. In 1873, three trees were brought from Brazil to Riverside, California. One of those trees is still alive and producing fruit in 2013. There are over 600 varieties of oranges. With Valencia, Hamlin, Pineapple oranges, Temple, Navel and Red Navel, Blood oranges, Amber Sweet, Moro, Seville, Jaffa, Persian, and Parsons Brown topping our list.

Facts about oranges

Brazil is the largest producer of oranges in the world. Oranges are the fourth most popular fruit and juice in America. Florida oranges are greener than California's because the warmer Florida nights cause the chlorophyll pigments to blend into the orange peel. Ripe oranges left on the tree, not picked, may turn green due to re-greening. This doesn't harm the flavor or nutritional value. It is possible to grow more than one plant from a single seed. Oranges contain more fiber than most fruits and vegetables. Oranges and their blossoms are symbols of love. More orange trees are killed by lightening than plant diseases. Oranges were known as the fruit of the Gods, being referred to as the "golden apples" that Hercules stole. There are over 35,000,000 orange trees in Spain.

There are long thorns on the young trees, and at some point, in their lives, pruning away thorns from new growth is perfectly safe. They grow them to protect themselves from grazing animals. When grafting, cut away all thorns from the rootstock.

My mother-in-law, when we first visited her in Florida, warned us to never eat more than 3 oranges a day. It would cause, what we referred to as, "quick Johnny fox trots" or the runs.

The color orange is a symbol of vitality, strength and endurance because that is what is found in oranges.

Citrus does include lemons, limes, grapefruits, pomelos, tangerines and tangelos. Trees that provide delicious fruits as well as clean our air.

Thank one for all it does.

Joyce Comingore is a Master Gardener, hibiscus enthusiast and member of the Garden Club Cape Coral.



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