Last of the Honeybells

Curious case of the Honeybells in April

This year’s prolonged honeybell season threw the circadian rhythms of my internal water cycle clock all out of kilter.

It was back in January when I excitedly heralded in the “First of the Honeybells” as a bellwether of the dry season’s midpoint.

Perhaps the most coveted of the Floridian orange varieties – the Honeybells are famously sweet, and made all the sweeter by the shortness of the season: it lasts only a few weeks of January.

But not this year.

This winter’s season not only stretched all through January, but also marched right through February, and to my amazement showed no signs of slowing through the end of March.

That “First of the Honeybells” sign had become a permanent fixture.

I would have chalked it up as an oversight of the grocer, had it not been for the Honeybells themselves, right there, staring me in the face.

And yes, I continued to buy them week in and week out, even if I also started taking note that their curb appeal had slowly diminished. (There was a little more mottling on the skin, and it took a bit more work to pick through to find the keepers).

But the taste was still the same old incomparable Honeybell.

I was amazed.

But then two weeks ago the sign abruptly changed.

It read “Last of the Honeybells”.

A week later the sign was gone altogether, and so were Honeybells.

What was the trick?

Only the oldest one in the book: chilling them right after they are harvested.

But I have a hunch that goes one step further.

Northern Honeybell season – up where it snows: that’s still a January affair. And they get the top of the crop … as they should: they pay a high price to have them packed and shipped. (But who could blame them: to have a slice of Florida sunshine shipped … that’s priceless.)

Down here in Florida, we still get “ours” (as it is a native birthright of the state), but we also get “theirs” – in the form of an “extended” Honeybell season – depending on harvest size and market place demand.

Both change year in and year out, as does the water cycle.

Anyhow, this year’s delay in the honeybell season’s end – at least symbolically, seemed to continually push back the midpoint of the dry season: as long as the Honeybells were still on the shelves, the dry season couldn’t proceed past its midpoint into its drier half.

Well, now the Honeybells are gone.

So too seems to be the drought.

But fear not. Florida’s citrus marches on: it’s Valencia season – through May.
As for relating Valencias to the traditional nadir of the dry season, when the water cycle descends into its driest “heart of dryness” before the wet season splashes its rains.

I’ve learned my lesson from the Honeybells.

Oranges are for eating, and water is for drinking.

(Unless your from Florida, which in that case. oranges are also — and probably best suited –for drinking — especially the seed-abundant Valencia!)

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