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How To Spot a Ripe, Sweet Navel Orange?
Old 12-17-2018, 12:59 PM   #1
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How To Spot a Ripe, Sweet Navel Orange?

So, is there a trick to spotting a ripe, sweet navel orange?

For me, things have been hit or miss.

Do I look at color, firmness, size? or is this like in "Forrest Gump" with a box of chocolates?
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Old 12-17-2018, 01:34 PM   #2
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I would ask the grocer to cut/peel one open and do a taste test. And make sure all the others are from the same batch.

My neighbor gave me a bunch of tangerines from the tree at his vacation home. The outsides don't look like they could ever be sold in a store, but the insides are the sweetest, best tangerines that I have ever eaten in my life. I write that to note that appearances can be deceiving.

This post made me go look at the orange tree in our front yard. I just noticed it has a few dozen oranges on it, but they are Valencia oranges and need another month or so before picking. Or maybe the day before a very hard freeze. The sugar in them makes them impervious to a light freeze. I will pick one, cut it open, and taste it. If it is good, then I harvest all the others.
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Old 12-17-2018, 01:38 PM   #3
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If it feels light it could be dried up, but I don't know if I ever used that because it's hard. These days I'm more careful about the skin looking good because I once ate an orange with slightly off looking skin (not green or pale, just a little dehydrated looking), and it gave me and another person the runs. I also choose navel oranges that actually have navels. Some are closed and some are a 1/8" circle which I consider too small and I often reject those. I reject ones with green in the navel. I reject paler/yellower than average ones - I want a good ORANGE color. I don't buy them in bags as often as I used to because I never found a bag full of perfect ones. There's always one like the one that gave me the runs.

And I reject ones that are too soft. Not sure if I ever rejected a too hard one but I think I have.
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Old 12-17-2018, 01:42 PM   #4
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^Color doesn't matter I think. Oranges turn orange when it gets cold enough, but if left on the tree, they will turn green again. The consumer marketplace has decided they need to be orange to sell them.

Certainly, if an orange (or other citrus fruit) is mushy, then it probably has a rotted on the inside.
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Old 12-17-2018, 01:43 PM   #5
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My past few purchases. Bought some from in a bag (net). Couldn't finish, as too they upset my stomach so ended up tossing. Then decided to some buy organic Navel Oranges from Whole Foods. First try was very good. Second try was okay but not as sweet as I like.

Yesterday, bought some on sale (at the same place that I tossed out the bag/net) individually. Ate one today and it tasted pretty good, though not completely sweet. I went for a good orange tone and avoided the smaller ones. Yet, still felt like I was just guessing.

Follow up question: Does a navel orange tend to get riper and sweeter if left on the counter top?
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Old 12-17-2018, 01:50 PM   #6
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Purchasing FRUIT is a Science (not an Art.)

1. If you are purchasing Oranges in the U.S., check the label on the package that it was grown in the U.S.

2. Not South Africa

3. Not Central America

4. Color does not matter. Taste does - so you need to ask the produce guy to slice an orange for you.

5. In this case, size does not matter. You want to ensure that the orange does not have a thick exterior as it is likely not be very juicy.
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Old 12-17-2018, 02:04 PM   #7
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Purchasing FRUIT is a Science (not an Art.)

1. If you are purchasing Oranges in the U.S., check the label on the package that it was grown in the U.S.

2. Not South Africa

3. Not Central America

Good luck getting a decent navel outside of the December-May season then. I've had pretty good luck with Australian and Israeli oranges in the off season.
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Old 12-17-2018, 02:07 PM   #8
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A good juicy naval orange has thin skin, is soft but not squishy, and heavier for its size. Beware of color, many are now dyed.
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Old 12-17-2018, 02:07 PM   #9
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What’s frustrated me lately is that I can’t seem to get any oranges that peel cleanly and easily. Seems like I used to be able to peel and eat them. Now the pith rarely comes off without a lot of work and the wedges don’t seem to separate either. Basically it’s become a messy endeavor to eat and orange. Not sure what happened or how to pick what I’m used to having in the past.
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Old 12-17-2018, 02:27 PM   #10
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Like tomatoes, it seems that oranges are now bred for looks and durability and not taste. I look for the "heirloom" varieties if they're available. I mainly buy oranges for juicing and as garnishes for drinks, and I'm finding it harder and harder to get juicing varieties such as Valencia or Temple these days.
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Old 12-17-2018, 03:17 PM   #11
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Whatís frustrated me lately is that I canít seem to get any oranges that peel cleanly and easily.
Exactly! I used to select sweet, juicy naval oranges by color and feel, and the best ones had that thick skin which peeled easily. They were also big.

Now, they're much smaller and with thinner skins that make peeling a chore. Even the "naval" isn't as pronounced any more.

I sometimes see the grapefruits in the supermarket and think they're oranges. Or oranges and think they're tangerines. Everything has gotten smaller.

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Like tomatoes, it seems that oranges are now bred for looks and durability and not taste.
I think, like just about everything else, they're also picked WAY before they're ripe. And like everything else, if they ever do ripen in transit or in the supermarket, they're dried out and shriveled by then.

I check the produce in every store I go into. I very rarely buy anything any more. And I love ripe melons, strawberries, oranges, etc.
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Old 12-17-2018, 03:24 PM   #12
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I've given up on buying regular oranges. If I can find them, I get Satsuma mandarin oranges which are similar to tangerines and are easy to peel or get honey tangerines (usually have small brown spots on the skin). Both are easy to peel. Clementines only in season.
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Old 12-17-2018, 03:28 PM   #13
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A good juicy naval orange has thin skin, is soft but not squishy, and heavier for its size. Beware of color, many are now dyed.
Exactly correct. Thin skin is very important.
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Old 12-17-2018, 04:23 PM   #14
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I tend to go with firmness. I like Navel oranges with thick white rinds. I love to eat that white part of the rind. One of my vices.
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Old 12-17-2018, 05:06 PM   #15
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My DH worked for a fruit packing company. This was maybe 30 years ago. Anyway, they said green oranges can be ripe, but the company gassed them to turn them orange.
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Old 12-17-2018, 08:41 PM   #16
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We usually don't go with navels, instead go with mandarins. The non branded can be ok, but sometimes bland. The Cutie brand has been consistently good. We got shafted 80% of the time buying peaches this past season... I'm not the shopper, so can't complain, but the idea of finding the produce person and having them give you a sample seems essential when buying some fruits. But I think the way most people do it is just buy it on the hopes of being good, then if it's not, take it back for a refund. All the stores are happy to give refunds, but often the time and effort required to do that makes it never happen.
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Old 12-18-2018, 02:56 AM   #17
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Despite having apple and plum trees in my yard, and growing raspberries, blackberries and strawberries, I cannot and do not eat fresh fruit. The inconsistent flavor/sweetness is the reason, I can eat fruit from the same branch on a tree, and it will not taste the same to me. I only eat fruit now if it's been fermented, jellied, jammed, or put in a dessert.

When I was a kid, DF, an airline employee, would bring home large bags of navel oranges from Florida. Employees would give $$ to someone on the flight crew, they would buy the produce, and bring it back in the hold. The oranges were the size of softballs, and only the first one I ate ever tasted any good.

They also pooled money to buy wheels of cheese from Wisconsin.
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Old 12-18-2018, 06:46 AM   #18
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A good juicy naval orange has thin skin, is soft but not squishy, and heavier for its size. Beware of color, many are now dyed.
+1. If it’s hard, light (weight), thick skinned and/or severely bruised I put it back. Color doesn’t mean much IME. I buy naval oranges almost every week for DW.
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Old 12-18-2018, 06:56 AM   #19
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If your local climate supports it then try to buy locally grown citrus, preferably from those that aren't producing them for shipping.
My Washington navels didn't produce this year but the Louisiana Sweets are very sweet but brown, warty, and ugly looking skin. The Satsumas were equally sweet.
Citrus that are grown for shipping usually have thick skins/pith and are picked before ripening on the tree.
And if you get oranges that aren't very sweet then juice them and mix with store bought orange juice. Amazing what the addition of a fresh orange makes.
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Old 12-18-2018, 07:02 AM   #20
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Despite having apple and plum trees in my yard, and growing raspberries, blackberries and strawberries, I cannot and do not eat fresh fruit. The inconsistent flavor/sweetness is the reason, I can eat fruit from the same branch on a tree, and it will not taste the same to me. I only eat fruit now if it's been fermented, jellied, jammed, or put in a dessert.
I think that's a fine way to consume "recently fresh" fruit. Especially fermented, but pies are a close second.


Back to the OP's question, one other characteristic I find that indicates good, juicy naval oranges is price. The price here (South Fl) at the season peak is around $1.00 per pound. Once the price gets above that, the higher the price, the less likely it is to be juicy. Water and temperature during the growth period is critical, if either was off the amount harvested falls and the price rises. When I see oranges at hte market here above $1.50 I don't even bother, as that means they are small and dry. OTOH, when they hit $1.00, it's hard to choose poorly and I have at least one orange daily.
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