Food News

The Mysterious Honeybell Gift Box

Last Friday, the FedEx guy came by my house with a rather large box from Cushman's Fruit. As I signed for it, I noted that it was addressed to my husband, so I left it unopened.

When he came home, I told him someone sent him fruit. We opened the box to find no gift card, no sender name (on box or inside). "Someone sent you grapefruit? But we live in Florida," I said.

"Must be Stanley," my husband replied. Stanley is his stepfather, who

lives in Pennsylvania. Each year, we send him oranges or something else

tropical as a friendly reminder that he has to shovel snow and we


Turns out, they aren't grapefruits at all. The three dozen oversized

fruits are Honeybells, a seedless hybrid of Dancy tangerines and Duncan

grapefruits. These natural mutants were discovered in 1945 by a farmer

who sold the first batch to Ed Cushman, who ran a gift shop and fruit

packing plant in West Palm Beach. Cushman started selling the strange

fruit, which is harvested only once a year, in December and January. 

Although Honeybells are part grapefruit and grafted onto sour orange

tree stock, they're extremely sweet, seedless, and juicy. Very, very juicy.

In fact, the Honeybells come packed with bibs resembling those that come

with lobsters in tacky seaside restaurants. I immediately threw out

the bibs with the packing material and wish I hadn't. The Honeybells

are heavy with juice, making them resemble a water balloon more than an

orange. Cutting into the golden flesh, I immediately got juice in my

eye. And all over my iPhone case. The only way to eat them is over the

sink, the sticky juice running down your chin and elbows. I suppose like

mangoes, eating them in the bathtub would also work.

The taste is that of an orange on steroids -- and no hint of grapefruit (which actually would have been welcome).

So, we have about two dozen more Honeybells to go. And they're large. If

anyone has any suggestions on what to do with them (besides the obvious

juicing and eating), please let me know.

Oh, and turns out they weren't a present from my husband's stepfather

and the sender remains a mystery. So if you recently gifted our

household with a box of Honeybells -- thank you for the mystery fruit!

If you want to try some Honeybells yourself, the Cushman family still

sells them from their gift shop in West Palm Beach, or you can order them

online. But hurry -- it's already January.

Cushman's, 3325 Forest Hill Blvd., West Palm Beach. Call 561-965-3535.

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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times, covering the restaurant and bar scene in South Florida. She has been featured on Cooking Channel’s Eat Street and Food Network’s Great Food Truck Race. Doss won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature on what it’s like to wait tables. In a previous life, she appeared off-Broadway and shook many a cocktail as a bartender at venues in South Florida and New York City. When she’s not writing, you can find Doss running some marathon then celebrating at the nearest watering hole.
Contact: Laine Doss