How to Pick a Ripe Orange

Oranges ripe on tree1

There are differing peak seasons for oranges depending upon variety. Valencia oranges are in season from late spring to mid-summer. Navels are best from mid-winter to early spring and blood oranges peak from early winter until early spring. Sour oranges are harvested beginning in late fall and the harvest continues through spring depending upon the region and climate.

Select. Select a firm, smooth and thin-skinned orange that is fully colored and heavy for its size. Color is not a good indicator of quality; some oranges are dyed and some fully ripened oranges such as Valencia may regreen. Brown surface patches do not mean the orange is unripe or spoiled, but rather that it was grown in a very warm and usually humid region. Avoid oranges that are soft or moldy.

Amount. Three medium-sized or 2 large oranges equal about one pound of segments.

Store. Oranges will keep at room temperature for up to 1 week and in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Whole or segmented oranges are not recommended for freezing. Orange juice can be frozen in plastic containers for up to one year.

Prepare. To eat an orange out of hand, wedge your thumb between the peel and flesh and pull off the peel a piece at a time. Break fruit into sections.

Run a sharp knife between the peel and flesh in a spiral fashion to remove the orange peel and the bitter white membrane beneath.

To juice an orange, roll the fruit on a firm surface to soften the flesh then ream on an orange or lemon juicer.

To grate orange peel for zest, rub the colored part of the rind only against the small grater holes or use a zester or vegetable peeler to remove the rind and then chop finely.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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