Why do in season oranges sometimes taste good, sometimes not, by the time I get them?
Hello, not quite as stupid a question as it sounds.
I live in the north east, and if I go to the grocery store or even whole foods when Florida oranges are in season, I am never "wowed" by the quality, or very rarely. If however I were to order Florida oranges from Harry and David or the fruit company, I pay my $88 for 12 oranges plus 2 day shipping, and each one tastes 90% as good as if it had come off the tree (which I have had).
So, my question is, assuming the fruit is in season, what are boutique fruit shippers doing differently than grocery stores in order to get that level of quality? I mean, don't they use the same industry standard harvesting techniques and distribution techniques when it comes down to it? Farmer wakes up in florida, laborers picks in the am, Pre cooler by noon, refrigerated truck by 2:00 and on the road to Boston. In 48 hours the truck is rolling into New England Produce in Chelsea. The broker from the grocery store is there to receive the shipment, and in four hours the orange is on the shelf. If I use two day shipping on a mail order, if I get to the oranges as soon as they're put on display that's still only a day or so later from tree to plate than with a mail order. I feel this applies to most fruits too. What are these speciality mail order companies doing right that a grocer can't do?
It probably has to do with many factors.
It could be as simple as grocery stores picking them when they are less ripe and allow them to ripen in transit whereas boutique places may strive for picked ripe.
It could be that grocery stores are buying from mass produced farm A while boutiques are buying from smaller, more concerned farm B.
I am no expert, and I don't know florida or farming there, but I know that my fiancee is from an extremely famous citrus area of Japan. When I buy an orange in the store from this area, they are incredible. When I eat the same variety of orange from her grandfather's tree, its inedible. Could be a soil difference, could be a fertilizer difference, they could be like grapes and the terroir could have something to do with it. Wines taste better when the grapes have poor conditions and have to work harder to grow, maybe more harsh conditions either positively or negatively affect oranges.
Bottom line is I doubt the grocery store and the boutique fruit companies are buying from the exact same farm. So somewhere along the line, be it soil, altitude, age of trees, exposure to sun, ripeness picked, transportation method, one or all things are possible.
Strawberries here in Japan are the same. One store will have 4-5 different packages of strawberries. They will all be different prices, and although all look the same, the most expensive are definitely the best flavour.
They somehow are able to pick the best of the best, and they package them the best and they taste the best. Maybe they screen oranges for the grocery stores and give them the cheapest ones that are hanging low or not much flavour and the boutiques get the screened better ones.
That is a great question and I would also love to know the answer. I am also in the northeast and find in season citrus from the grocery store to be very hit and miss. I had some great oranges from Whole Foods, as well as mediocre. I had some great oranges from Stop and Shop and also some awful ones. I feel like I am rolling the dice whenever I buy them.