Oranges are the universal symbol of vitamin C, the source of the most popular juice globally, and the fruit of choice for many. But with so many oranges out there, do you know when and where to find the best ones?
The best time for ripe oranges depends on the type. Blood oranges are available between November and May. Navel oranges, on the other hand, are ripe from November to June. Valencia oranges (popular for juices) and Kumquats (the smaller variety of oranges) are available from ~March to June.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the different types of oranges available, how to identify ripe oranges, and how to store them properly for later use.
What Types of Oranges Are There?
One of the great things about oranges is their variety. Oranges come in different shapes, pulp colors, and flavors. Here are just a few of the most common oranges:
Navel oranges are the most common variety of oranges available on the market. They have a navel-like protrusion on the end that isn’t attached to the tree (hence the name) and a tough skin. Generally, they are ideal for freshly squeezed orange juice.
If you plan to juice navel oranges, you should consider preservation — their sweetness means that they ferment quite quickly. You can also use them in a fruit salad or cocktail.
Cara Cara Oranges
Cara Cara navel oranges, or red-fleshed navel oranges, are a sweeter variant of navel oranges. These oranges have bright orange skin and a slightly pink interior that is quite juicy and tasty.
They also have few seeds, low acidity, and a zingy aftertaste. For this reason, the Cara Cara oranges are a favorite ingredient for citrus salads.
Cara Cara oranges are predominantly found in California.
Kumquats are one of the smallest oranges available commercially. They aren’t as sweet as most other oranges, but one thing that makes them stand out is their edible skin and seeds. The skin or peel of the kumquat is the best part of the orange.
Apart from eating kumquats, you could turn them into marmalade or use the puree as a part of a desert.
Valencia oranges are very juicy and are among the most popular oranges used to make juices. Their skins are thinner than navel oranges, and they have a small amount of seeds, unlike seedless oranges.
Mixing fresh juice from a Valencia orange with orange bitters and apricot brandy will give you the delightful Valencia cocktail.
When Are Oranges in Season?
Oranges are produced in a handful of states in America, and the season differs from state to state. Below, we’ll look at some specifics state-by-state, but if you’re finding yourself out of season, be sure to consider options like Trader Joe’s Sweetened Dried Orange Slices (on Amazon) to get your fix.
And remember juice concentrates like Minute Maid Frozen Concentrated Orange Juice (also on Amazon) can last for a very long time if stored properly.
Naturally, we begin with the largest producer of oranges in the country. Florida oranges come into season twice per year, between January and June and September through December.
In Alabama, oranges come into season from October until the middle of December.
Like Florida, Texas oranges are in season two times a year. The first one season is from January until April. After five months, oranges come into season again from September to December.
Arizona’s dual season is from January to March and November to December.
Orange seasons in Louisiana are rather short. Although there are two seasons, the total time is only about three months. The first period is from January to February, and the second one comes in December.
Orange is in season in California all year round. Yes, you heard that right!
Mississippi has one orange season in January and another from November to December.
Like California, oranges are available in Hawaii all year long.
How Do You Harvest Oranges?
Harvesting oranges isn’t too difficult. Once you’re confident that the oranges are ripe, reach out and pull them from the stem. Usually, the oranges give way easily, and you can pick them.
If the tree is too tall for you to pick the oranges this way, get a ladder. Place the ladder in the right position, and shake the branch you want the oranges to drop from. Normally, the oranges should fall to the ground.
If the oranges are high but the skin is too thin to use the method above, use a clipper instead. Climb the tree, and cut the branch with the oranges. When you get to the ground, you can pick the oranges off them.
How to Tell When Oranges Are Ripe
Oranges mature or ripen at different times, depending on the variety. Here are some tips on how to tell when oranges are ripe.
Ripe Oranges Emit a Sweet Smell
One of the things to look out for when checking for ripeness is the smell. Ripe oranges give off a fragrant smell. If you’re about to harvest oranges from the tree, compare smells.
A sweet smell indicates the orange might be ripe, while a moldy or sharp smell means the orange isn’t ready yet.
Wait for the Right Season
Each variant of orange has the period of the year when it’s expected to be ripe. For example, navel oranges are usually in season from November to June. Outside this period, you shouldn’t expect to find ripe navel oranges.
The same thing applies to other varieties of oranges. Wait for the right season before searching for ripe oranges.
Don’t Be Deceived by Color
Many people believe an orange is ready when the color changes, but that’s not the case. Though a color change from green to orange indicates maturity in oranges, some varieties, like satsumas, might still have a tinge of green while ripe.
Although relatively uncommon, an orange can also change color from green to orange if there’s a temperature change. The change in color leads to the peeling of the chlorophyll (the green pigment on the orange’s skin) but the orange still isn’t ripe.
How to Buy and Store Oranges
Choosing the best orange isn’t about picking the prettiest one from the shelf. Next time you’re orange shopping, there are some tips to follow.
Opt for oranges that feel heavy for their small size and are firm to the touch. Avoid any that have soft or mushy spots, or those that have lost their typical citrusy smell.
In order to maintain the freshness of your newly purchased oranges, place them in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer. Your oranges can last for up to a month in the crisper drawer.
Putting your oranges in a plastic mesh bag also encourages airflow around your oranges and helps keep them fresh.