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Florida Guide > Miscellaneous

What Do You Know About Florida? Part 1

We all love Florida, and particularly Orlando, but I wonder how many of us know much about this, the ‘Sunshine State. ’ For instance, although Orlando and Disney are the main attraction for millions of visitors, did you know that Florida has 663 miles of beaches, and that these offer a variety of experiences, from the calmer, blue seas of the Gulf Beaches, to the azure waters and miles of soft silvery sand of the Atlantic Coast?

But let’s start with the State Capital, Tallahassee, in Leon County, which has a population of around 125, 000. Located in the north west, along the panhandle, just below Georgia, it has a long history dating back to the Apalachee Indians, and was occupied at one time or another by the Spanish, French and English. It has one of the world’s deepest freshwater springs, as well as many historical houses, and is the home of the Florida State University.

The population of Florida is just under 16, 000, 000, and the state is diverse and fascinating, with a humid sub-tropical climate to the north, and a tropical climate at its southernmost tip, Key West. The largest city is Jacksonville, on the east coast, with Miami being the largest metropolitan area, way down at the southern end of the state. Florida is mainly flat, and its highest point, Britton Hill is only 345ft, or 105m. Its motto is ‘In God We Trust. ’

I wonder how many people can guess that, as of July, 2006, the State Pie is Key Lime Pie, that tangy dessert, very similar in appearance to lemon meringue pie, made from lime juice, eggs, condensed milk and sugar, in an unbaked graham cracker crumb base. Condensed milk was used originally because fresh milk was not commonly available in the days before refrigeration. One would expect the pie to be green, but to be truly authentic it should be yellow, as the small Key limes produce a lemony coloured juice. The Key lime is difficult to harvest because of its sharp thorns, but it is very aromatic and tart to the taste. The yellow hue is also due to the egg yolks. When the condensed milk and the lime juice are mixed it creates a reaction which thickens the filling without being cooked – but nowadays these pies are generally baked for a short time to avoid problems with the consumption of raw egg yolks. The pie is then topped with meringue, and as this does not travel well or last indefinitely you are unlikely to find a commercially manufactured pie with this topping. For the real connoisseurs of Key Lime Pie, cream will not do – it has to be meringue.

And who could guess that the State gem is the moonstone, that luminous, mysterious, shimmering blue, almost transparent, most romantic of gems, often called a ‘lover’s stone. ’

I am sure you can guess what the state beverage is, after all, most of us have seen an orange grove on our travels around the countryside – but as the State fruit is the orange, of course it has to be orange juice. There are still orange groves along Highway 27 where you can pick your own fresh oranges from the trees, and take them home ready to squeeze your morning glass of orange juice, brimming with vitamin C.

I suppose it is not really surprising that the State Flower is the Orange Blossom, that most delicate of blooms which exudes such a sweet smell. The tree itself, citrus sinensis, is a hybrid, possibly of tangerine and pomelo, but whatever its origin, the Florida orange is sweet and juicy, and one picked straight from the tree is particularly delicious. The blossom itself is pure white, with 5 petals, and a heady perfume. You can often smell the scent of the orange blossom as you drive past the groves, and below the clusters of delicate flowers you will see the wonderful ripe orange fruit. The fruit is actually a type of berry, but whatever it is, picking one fresh from the tree, inhaling the intoxicating scent of the blossom, and being able to peel it and eat it immediately is one of the great pleasures of being in Florida.

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Page added on: 8 April 2007
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