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The Showcase of Citrus - U Pick
It was a gloriously sunny day in March this year when we drove up to Clermont on one of our regular trips to the shops there. We always enjoy the journey from our villa on Highway 27 to Clermont, as it passes through beautiful Florida countryside, with orange groves and many lakes. We have often noticed the U Pick orange groves on the right hand side, going north, but have never found the time to stop. But on our return journey we could not resist taking a look at the ‘Showcase of Citrus’, and we are pleased we did.
As we turned into the car park we could see some rather ramshackle buildings on our left, so we wandered over and were surprised to see a range of freshly picked citrus fruits for sale. A helpful assistant showed us around and explained how they make fresh orange juice daily. We were offered samples of the different fruits to taste and they were really juicy and delicious.
The best thing about the Showcase of Citrus is that you can actually wander round the groves and pick your own fruit, so we set off through the back of the shop and followed the map we had given, along the path towards the orange groves. The first fruit we came to were kumquats, which resemble miniature oval oranges. Although we had seen these in supermarkets, we had never tasted them, so we picked some off the branches and tried them. You are invited to sample the fruit, which you do not peel but eat with the peel on. It was delicious, and rather unusual.
We wandered along the path and walked over a little bridge which led us towards the main orange groves, where there was row upon row of trees, laden with sweet smelling orange blossom. We decided to look for tangerines and were not disappointed. The bushes were laden with clusters of rich, plump orange fruit, and we picked one and sampled it there and then. It was dripping with juice and so sweet, quite the most delicious tangerine I had ever tasted. They certainly have the right name – honey tangerines. The heady smell of blossom was in the air, and above the fruit were clusters of delicate looking blooms with 5 white petals.
We wandered up and down the rows of orange trees, gathering some fruit to take home. Back at the shop they were weighed and we paid for them before taking a look at the shop. There were all sorts of preserves for sale, including honey made from orange blossom.
The Showcase of Citrus is a wonderful place to bring children, to see oranges growing naturally – not sitting on supermarket shelves. The groves cover 35 acres with 7, 000 trees, and there are 50 varieties of oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, lemons and limes. The Gift Shop and U Pick Citrus are closed during the summer months, from May – October. They are open daily from 8. 00 am – 6. 00 pm, and you will find it at 5010 Highway 27 North, Clermont, which is just 4 miles from the junction of the 192 and the 27.
Interestingly, they offer Monster Truck Off-Road Eco-Adventures, too on huge zebra-striped trucks with giant wheels. These tours last approximately an hour and travel through the beautiful citrus groves, before journeying through upland Palmetto, Oak and Pine Scrubland. The tour takes you through cattle pasture, wooded swamps and lowland marshes, which are the head waters of the Everglades watershed. These rides are available by appointment only, and cost $20 for adults, and $10 for children aged 4-12. Children 3 and under are free.
For more information ring 352 267 2597 for Swamp Buggy information or 352 394 4377 for citrus information. Make sure you call as far in advance as possible to ensure you can get your preferred date and time for the Buggy Ride.
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