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California Citrus: Orange You Glad the Golden State's So Fruitful?

California citrus has a history as colorful as the Gold Rush, and just about as frenetic.


California Citrus

by Amara Rose

Many of us grew up hearing about the Florida Sunshine Tree, made famous by citrus spokesperson Anita Bryant. But California, with its perfect growing climate, gives Florida and Texas a run for their orange and grapefruit money. California citrus, in fact, has a history as colorful as the Gold Rush, and just about as frenetic. When you buy citrus from the Coast, you're not just buying fruit—you're buying a piece of American history.

California Citrus Rush in 1880s Precipitated By Smart PR

The citrus rush may have been the result of a public relations campaign, which created the slogan, "Oranges for Health, California for Wealth," in the late nineteenth century. Just a generation after the forty-niners, the people, like the fruit, were ripe for another kind of gold. California promised prosperity and well being, always a wining combination. Even seasoned growers of other fruits—apples, cherries and grapes—couldn't hold a candle to the lure of California citrus. The golden glow of grapefruits, lemons and oranges made citrus special.

So the curious and adventurous set out to seek their fortune in California citrus. Between 1880 and 1890, nearly 350,000 people descended on the Golden State. The vast majority of citrus seekers migrated to southern California: Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Santa Paula, and other regions today known for their outstanding citrus crop.

Southern California Citrus Growers United to Form Sunkist

In the middle of the decade, an "agricultural depression" hit, and many disillusioned growers surrendered their dream of citrus success and returned from whence they'd come. Those who rode out the hard times eventually united into a southern California citrus cooperative, and by the turn of the century, Sunkist was born.

California Citrus State Historic Park Is No Lemon

More recently, to help preserve the vanishing citrus culture, the California Department of Parks and Recreation established the California Citrus State Historic Park in Riverside, to commemorate a time when citrus was "king." The park was designed so that a visitor would feel instantly transported back to an early 1900s city park—and, in fact, the trees within the park still continue to yield high-quality citrus fruits.

In Citrus Towns, The Very Air Is Redolent With A Tangy Taste

If you've never spent time in a California citrus town, you can't fully appreciate how the air itself carries the tangy essence, much the way Hershey, Pennsylvania always smells like chocolate. In the spring, when the oranges are ripening on the trees, the air is perfumed with eau de citrus.

Orange Trees Grow in Almost Every Yard in California's Citrus Belt

For example, in Ojai, California, a southern California town near Santa Paula, orange trees are common in many people's front and backyards. It's one fruit few people need to buy in the supermarket when citrus is in season! You can hike the trails that border the groves, and pick fallen citrus fruit right off the ground for a thirst-quenching snack.

Once you've tasted California citrus fresh from the tree, you're sure to search your local area for places that sell this superb quality fruit. Other citrus pales by comparison. Because, as you know, when you buy California citrus, you're buying a tangy taste of history!

Amara Rose offers life purpose coaching, talks, tapes/CDs, e-courses, play shops, and a FREE inspirational monthly newsletter, What Shines. She's also a "business alchemist" who has word smithed everything from white papers to web content. For more Amara, visit or e-mail

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