A Brief History of Texas Oranges
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The orange is one of the world's oldest and most popular fruits. Like most fruits from the citrus family, the orange was first cultivated in Southeast Asia. The date of origin has been disputed for generations. But many botanists believe that the orange is thousands of years old.
When it comes to citrus fruits, the orange is the world's most popular variety by a wide margin. Each year, orange-producing nations ship more than sixty-three million tons of oranges. That makes the orange the third most popular fruit on earth, after the tomato and the banana. In this article we will discuss the growth of Texas oranges.
At present, the United States is the world's second largest producer of oranges, after Brazil. This is impressive considering the fact that oranges are only grown in four US states: Florida, California, Texas and Arizona. With more than seventy percent of the US market, Florida is the top orange producer in North America.
Why is this? Well, one reason is that the orange arrived in Florida much earlier than in any of the other states. Though the exact date is unknown, the sweet orange most likely arrived in the Sunshine State sometime in the mid-16th century. A few historians even claim that the famous Spanish explorer, Ponce de Leon, was the one who actually brought the orange to America.
But whoever delivered it, one thing is beyond question–the orange was a hit in Florida. And though it took three centuries, by the eighteen hundreds, there was a burgeoning orange industry in Florida. How did the orange get to Texas?
The orange was brought to Texas sometime in the late nineteen century by traveling Spanish missionaries. It was distributed to farmers along with grapefruit seeds. Though both fruits grew well in the subtropical climate, Texas oranges were not nearly as popular as grapefruit. Why was this? The simplest explanation is that Florida was about a century ahead of the Lone Star State in oranges, but they did not grow many grapefruit. The first commercial shipments of Texas oranges were not send until 1921.
Today, Texas oranges account for only about 1-2 percent of US production. Of course, this does not make them any less desirable. The fact is that the subtropical climate of South Texas is actually superior in many ways to that of Florida. The only difference is that there is not nearly as much land for growing Texas oranges.