Honeybell oranges are exceptionally sweet and juicy citrus fruits which only reach peak ripeness during the month of January. Also known as Minneola tangelos, Honeybell oranges are not actually oranges at all. Similar to Jamaican Ugli fruit, they are a hybrid or cross between the Darcy variety of tangerine and either the Duncan or Bowen variety of grapefruit. This hybridization process, which some sources say can be traced back to the ancient Orient, yields a tangelo with the coloring and size of a grapefruit and the sweetness and juiciness of a tangerine. Honeybell oranges are prized for their sweetness and relative scarcity, along with their abundant supply of juice.
Many customers order Honeybell oranges months in advance of their actual due date in January. A few strains may be ready to ship in late December, but the majority of the Honeybell crop reaches maximum ripeness during the last weeks of January, or possibly early February. Virtually all Honeybell orange trees in the United States grow along the Indian River in Florida, and the crop yield is often regarded as unpredictable from year to year. Growers take orders for the oranges throughout the year, but can only harvest the crop during January and February. Great care must be taken while harvesting Honeybell oranges in order to avoid damaging the distinctively bell-shaped stem end of the fruit, which actually inspired the name for the fruit itself.
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