Honeybells / Credit: flickr @ StarrEnvironmental

Honeybells are so prized that many people order them long before harvest / StarrEnvironmental @ flickr

Called “the orange lover’s orange,” Honeybells are available now.

Grown predominantly on land along the Indian River, this special citrus is available only in late January and very early February. Miss it now and you’ll have to wait until next year.

So hurry to get a taste of this fruit that might be considered one of Florida’s agricultural treasures.

Honeybells are so prized that many people order them long before harvest so some orchards sell out quickly. But it’s not too late to learn about this cross between a Duncan grapefruit and a Dancy tangerine.

The hybrid, originally called a Mineola, was first created in 1931 by the USDA Horticultural Research Station in Orlando, according to writings co-authored by Stephen Futch, a citrus extension agent at the UF Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred.

Today this popular fruit is often called Honeybell because of its bell shape and copious juice that has a honey flavor with the tang of grapefruit. In fact, this fruit wrapped in an easy-to-peel bright orange skin, is made up of more juice than flesh. You’ll enjoy its sweet n’ sour flavor that comes from the pairing of its parents.

For those into eating healthfully and naturally, a Honeybell is low in calories but a great way to get fiber, potassium and vitamin C as well as folate that’s recommended for pregnant women to prevent birth defects.

All you need to enjoy this fruit is a bib. Barring that, eat it over the sink as you would a mango in July. When you tire of the juice alone, combine it with a variety of other fruit juices to concoct cocktails or virgin drinks.

Then get really creative. Use it for making vinaigrettes, marinades, fruit compotes and glazes. If you are a fan of lemon curd, don’t hesitate to make Honeybell curd. And don’t forget the zest that can be used in things such as baked goods or as a last-minute addition to seafood and steamed vegetables.

It’s also a noteworthy that most people taking statin drugs to lower their cholesterol can safely eat Honeybells. It’s been found that eating grapefruit with these drugs can interfere with their performance. Although Honeybells are related to grapefruits, they don’t have the same interaction with this commonly prescribed drug, according to an article in the Journal of Food Science.

If you want to try Honeybells this season, they can be ordered online from commercial orchards and through catalogs of packaged citrus gift items.

Because Honeybells require special handling and are in limited supply, they may cost more than other citrus fruits. For example, at one website we visited, nine pounds of Florida Honeybells cost $5 more than the same amount of navel oranges.

But as fruit aficionados know, this lush fruit is well worth the anticipation of its short harvest season as well as its premium price.