A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine gave me a honeybell orange. Shaped like a bell and chin-dripping juicy, it was the sweetest orange I’ve ever eaten. In moments it was gone, and I wanted more.
When I was a kid we drove from Minnesota to Florida just about every winter to visit relatives in Miami. Along the way roadside citrus stands used to line nearly every major thoroughfare. I know because we stopped at most of them. Travelers could sample a free cup of fresh orange juice while perusing a vast selection of fine Florida souvenirs.
This time however I didn’t have to drive 1,500 to satisfy my orange-from-paradise craving because we have one of a handful of citrus stores that still dot our state in our own backyard.
I drove a few short miles south of Ruskin to Dooley Groves, 1651 Stephens Road, in Sun City.
This year, owners Mike and Diane Houghtaling are offering the U-pick experience and guided tours of the farm and grove. They recommend that you wear long pants and enclosed shoes.
But back to the honeybells.
Actually, they’re not oranges at all. They’re an extraordinary hybrid of a Dancy tangerine and a Duncan grapefruit. Also sold as Minneola tangelos, the brilliant orange honeybells are seedless and easy to peel.
Diane said a bit more than 6,000 of the 8,100 trees growing on their property produce honeybells. But if you want some, you need to get them now. Their season ends mid to late February, and once the supply runs out, you’ll have to wait until next year.
You can pick your own like I did or buy them from the Dooley Groves country farm market, which has a full assortment of freshly picked citrus. I bought a bag filled with honeybells home and an enormous Ponderosa lemon. The nickname for the Ponderosa lemon is “The Five Pound Lemon.” A cross between lemon and citron, its bumpy skin and extra-large girth doesn’t resemble a true lemon. I’m sure I’ll find plenty of interesting things to do with it.
If you’re interested in this quintessential authentic Florida experience, I highly recommend visiting Dooley Groves and don’t forget your camera. For information, call (813) 645-3256.
Most bakers agree that because of their impressive sweet taste, the Florida honeybell makes for a delicious dish or dessert. This week I’m sharing my new favorite – Diane’s recipe for homemade honeybell meringue pie. It tastes like a sweet slice of heaven, and it’s absolutely beautiful to behold. Give it a try!
Lynn Kessel is a freelance food columnist. For more of her recipes, visit southshore.tbo.com and enter the search words Lynn Kessel.
1 prepared pie shell
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups Honeybell orange juice (about 3 large Honeybells)
2 beaten egg yolks
1 tablespoon butter
2 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
To prepare pie filling combine sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium saucepan. Stir in the honeybell orange juice, then cook and stir until thickened. Reduce heat and cook 1 more minute. Remove from heat. Stir a small amount of honeybell mixture into slightly beaten egg yolks, then return to hot mixture. Cook 2 minutes more, stirring constantly. Add butter.
Pour into pie shell or a glass pie plate if doing gluten-free.
To prepare the meringue topping, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the sugar until stiff. Spread over filling and seal to edge of the crust. Bake meringue-topped pie at 400 degrees for 7 - 9 minutes until meringue is golden brown.