The History of Texas Oranges
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Farmers have been growing oranges in Texas for more than a century now. The famous fruit arrived in the Lone Star State at the end of the nineteenth century. And although they are not a top orange producer, Texas oranges are some of the most sought after on the market today. Let us take a brief look back at the origins of Texas oranges.
The orange is one of the oldest fruits on earth. Most historians believe that it was first grown in ancient China four thousand years ago. Then, during the age of exploration, the orange became a favorite fruit of European explorers who spread the orange all over the globe.
Orange seeds were brought to America sometime during the 16th century. The story goes that it may very well have been the famous Spanish explorer, Ponce del Leon, who brought the orange to Florida. Though we may never know the truth, we do know that it was a big hit in the Sunshine State.
Orchards and orange groves have been flourishing in Florida for several centuries. But it wasn't until the early nineteenth century that the commercial orange industry got up and running. Years later, the orange was introduced to Texas. Because the orange grows best in a subtropical environment, oranges were relegated to a region of South Texas known as the Rio Grande Valley.
At about the same time, the grapefruit arrived in Texas. Since the orange was a proven winner in Florida, Texas orange crops were much larger than grapefruit crops. But when a simple mutation was discovered in an orchard in 1929, the Texas grapefruit industry was born.
What did this mean for Texas oranges? Because oranges were inextricably linked to Florida, the Lone Star State needed a similar association. In the end, they hitched their proverbial wagon to the grapefruit and it worked out quite well in the end. Texas became the unofficial grapefruit capital of the world for a decade before Florida overtook them in production.
As for Texas oranges, the state became the country's third largest producer. But they are a distant third. At present, Texas only grows about two percent of the oranges in America, while Florida supplies more than two-thirds of the tangy fruit. One explanation for this huge discrepancy is simple geography. Florida has more than one hundred thousand acres on which to plant oranges, while Texas oranges are cultivated on less than twenty thousand acres of land.