I absolutely love the multiple “Florida Citrus Center” gas station/tourist traps along I-75 North of Orlando.
On our road trip last week we stopped at two of them; one on the way down, one on the way up.
Yes, they do have LIVE BABY GATORS, as the billboards advertise.
And lots and lots of citrus, mostly grapefruit…
And tons of oranges and their kin.
They even have citrus trees for sale.
It’s difficult to keep citrus growing in the Sunshine State right now due to greening, but you’d never know that from stopping in at one of these classic tourist traps.
Something clever I saw for the first time was tiny packaged orange trees (and other citrus) in boxes that could travel.
I bought a calamondin for myself. The lady at the counter told me she’d bought one as well, and I asked her if she’d ever tried a calamondin before.
“No, I just thought it was a type of orange…”
When I explained that it was a super-sour fruit that was generally used for liqueurs, seasoning and marmalades, she was rather downcast.
I imagine quite a few people that manage to grow a little “calamondin ORANGE” from one of these impulse citrus trees will be quite surprised.
I paid $6.99 for mine, but I knew what it was.
Here’s another picture of grapefruit, which is what it is.
Inside The Florida Citrus Center you’ll find a lot of windchimes and other tropical and Florida bric-a-brac (Made in China), as well as clean bathrooms and free orange juice samples. And invariably, piles of shells, a gigantic stuffed gator, and open-mouthed preserved gator heads.
I always get a little homesick driving through Florida. These little gas station stops were part of the fabric of growing up Floridian, and I enjoy sharing them with my own children.
My little calamondin tree survived our trip and is already growing new leaves in its new pot.
The marmalade we’ll one day make will be a bittersweet taste of home.