When was the last time you picked your own oranges? Citrus groves are some of Florida’s best snapshots. They represent our history, agriculture, culture and cuisine – past and present. The citrus season lasts until late Spring, so it’s time to get out there and enjoy one of Florida’s most authentic experiences. Even consider a relaxing country drive to enjoy the beauty of the brightly colored groves while taking in the sweet fragrance of the orchids.
We found two authentic U-Pick orange groves and assure you that there aren’t many around these days.
U-Pick Citrus, Ft. Myers
The first one I found has been owned and operated for over 30 years by Bob and Judy Johnson in Fort Myers, this family-owned U-Pick Citrus farm will delight your authentic funny bone.
Following the off-beat road signs and multiple dirt roads – we met Bob Johnson and little Bob (his dog). Both were standing in a makeshift open-air eclectic garage and fruit stand. Bob has creatively decorated the corrugated building with a menagerie of collected road signs and license plates surrounded by rows of beautiful citrus.
Bob’s instructions were to fill a five-gallon bucket with whatever choice we wanted – oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, lemons or a combination. A full bucket of fruit was $10. Cash only.
U-pick is just that. You wander around the grove and grab your favorites. So wear your old tennis shoes and bring you own container or bag to transfer the fruit from your bucket. Bob and Judy designate one-third of their proceeds to charity and have an honor system if you visit and they aren’t there. Special added note: No pesticides are used by the Johnsons.
Address: 18971 Misty Morning Lane, Ft. Myers
Hours: Wednesday – Saturday 10:00-4:00 pm; Sunday 12:00-4:00 pm; closed Mondays, Tuesdays
Directions: From Corkscrew Road & 1-75 (Exit 123), the grove is approximately 16 miles. Follow the U-Pick sign that are posted on poles and trees.
Plesscher Groves, Bradenton
View the Video – AuthenticFlorida.com visits Plesscher Groves
Plesscher Groves, off Highway 675 in Bradenton opens in December and runs through late April. The family-owned grove, owned by the Plesschers is another quaint, Authentic Florida experience.
When we arrived, Eugene Plesscher instructed us to grab my 5-gallon bucket and head to the adjacent grove. It was easy to find trees and fruit within easy reach. The floral smell of orange blossoms just added to the enjoyment, with bees buzzing and making their way to the nearby honey hives.
Mr. Plesscher even instructed us on the art of orange picking. “Don’t yank an orange off a branch – just gently pull the branch straight out (with a sideways motion) and give it a nice easy break,” he commented. It’s definitely an art and took me more than a few tries – but Mr. Plesscher is standing by to give you instructions.
So, again we grabbed our bucket and filled up. The buckets get heavy, so you may have to fill half-way, deposit and return for more. Or grab the Plesscher’s hand cart.
Currently, Valencia oranges are the main “pick” but at the start of the season you can get fresh navels, tangelos, ruby reds (grapefruit) and honeybells. All buckets filled with fruit are $10.00. Be sure to bring cash. You can also pick up firewood, honey and bagged fruit if you don’t want to pick your own.
The Plesscher Grove is open Monday-Friday from 9 am – 5 pm and half-days on Sunday. If the Plesschers aren’t there, they have an honor system in the case you show up and they are at church – just put the money in the box, grab your barrel and fill up. Or ready-packed bags are waiting for you.
3350 Highway 675
(County Road 675 East, 1/2 mi south of State Road 64)