Fresh Fruit Is ‘All About the Box’

Ernie NeffFresh

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Ed Dickinson

Polk County grower Ed Dickinson has good things to say about some orange-mandarin juice and fresh mandarins he sampled at the Citrus Research and Education Center (CREC) in November.

Dickinson was one of dozens who tried new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) samples. He and others who scored the juice and fruit will help researchers from the UF/IFAS Plant Improvement Team decide which new varieties will move forward for release to the citrus industry. 

Dickinson says some orange juice that contained 10 percent mandarin juice stood out as high quality with beautiful color. “I think the industry needs to go that direction,” he says. “It was a Hamlin with 10 percent mandarin, and it just improved the Hamlin quality dramatically.” Dickinson grows mostly Valencia oranges but also some fresh fruit. “I would like fresh fruit that could go to juice, and that’s why I really like that 10 percent mandarin,” he says.

Dickinson identified two fresh mandarin selections at the sampling event that he said appealed to him more than the Bingos he is presently growing. “The outside package is what I’m looking for. It’s kind of like selling cereal; it’s all about the box … For mandarins especially, I want that color. I want the size. I want that it can be shipped, that it doesn’t look like it’ll break down too easily … The taste of course (is important), but taste is the last thing you get to when you buy a mandarin.” He adds that the ability to stand up to citrus greening is the most important quality he is looking for in a mandarin.

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Marketability is the key to successful citrus production, according to Dickinson. “We can grow a lot of fruit,” he says. “It’s just trying to figure out how to sell the fruit.”

Hear more from Dickinson, who lives in the Winter Haven area but has groves from Frostproof to Haines City.  

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Ernie Neff

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large