Saturday, November 18, 2006
Florida's State Fruit, The Orange
"The orange is Florida, and it made Florida, providing an authentic Fountain of Youth with its vitamin highs, supplying the legendary gold that the state's explorers and settlers lusted after." *
Symbolic of luxury, growth, and health, oranges suit Florida both culturally and agriculturally. Using the orange as an iconic symbol, early-twentieth-century promoters sold 10-acre lots to gentlemen farmers. If their advertisements are to be believed, diaphanous nymphs plucked ripe round fruit backlit by a glowing sunset. The reality of grubbing new groves, waiting years for the first crop, then lugging heavy bags of lumpy fruit to a packing house and on to a northern-bound train was quite another matter. But those early settlers persevered, making citrus a key element in Florida agriculture, as it still is today. The images live on as well. Counties, trains, football games -- what in Florida has not been named after the fruit?
It is no surprise that the orange is Florida's state fruit. The surprise is that it wasn't named so until 2005. The orange blossom was already the state flower, and orange juice had been the state beverage for years, but no state fruit. A group of Sarasota elementary school students made this discovery when they read about children in New Jersey campaigning to make blueberries their state fruit. So the Sarasota kids wrote letters, poems, and songs, and successfully lobbied the Florida legislature to pass a bill signed by Gov. Jeb Bush officially naming the orange as Florida's state fruit.
As a footnote, the Sarasota students' efforts in turn inspired New Hampshire students to convince their state legislators to name the pumpkin as the Granite State's official fruit.
For more information on Florida state symbols, click here.
(* Helen L. Kohen, "Perfume, Postcards, and Promises: The Orange in Art and Industry" Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts, Vol 23, 1998)