Oranges are a staple fruit the year-round, but their prime season coincides with the colder months, when their sweet juiciness is as welcome as a ray of sunshine.
Most oranges in this country come from California, Arizona and Florida. California and Arizona oranges are ideal for eating because they have thick, easy-to-peel skins; the thicker skins are thought to be a protection against the dry western climate. They’re often bright orange in color and have less juice than their thin-skinned Florida counterparts; fully 90 percent of Florida's orange crop goes into juice production.
Among the sweet oranges, the most popular eating variety is the Navel, which originated in Brazil. It’s distinguished by its blossom end, where a tiny embryonic fruit lies imbedded, resembling the protuberance of a navel. Navels are large, with thick, pebbly skins. They’re also seedless, easy to peel and segment; however, Navels aren’t generally used for juicing because their juice tends to turn bitter quickly.
Another commonly encountered variety, the Valencia, is ideal for juicing; its skin is thin and smooth, and its flesh is heavy with tangy juice. Valencias are also excellent for eating, though they're not as easy to peel as Navels.
Why choose organic oranges?
- Oranges are #31 on theEnvironmental Working Group's “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce,” a list of produce that carries the most pesticide residues when grown conventionally. Choosing organic oranges makes good sense — especially for children, whose growing bodies are so much more susceptible to environmental chemical exposures than adults’.
- At Earthbound Farm, we grow our organic oranges without toxic synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, using sustainable farming methods that protect the environment and help keep pesticides out of our soil, air, water and food supply. Organic food is the healthiest choice for people and the planet — and we think organic oranges taste better, too!
- WhatsOnMyFood.org from the Pesticide Action Network shows you searchable results for oranges, orange juice and a wide range of other organic and conventional foods. It’s an easy-to-use and empowering tool for learning about pesticide residues and their health effects for all of us.
How to select and store oranges
- Color doesn’t necessarily indicate an orange’s ripeness or quality. Oranges are always picked when they’re ripe, but Florida oranges (with the exception of organic fruit) are often dyed with food coloring. This isn’t true of oranges produced in California or Arizona, where state laws prohibit adding color to citrus fruits.
- Look for oranges that are firm to the touch and feel heavy for their size, which indicates they’re full of juice. If you’re looking for juice oranges, thin-skinned specimens are juicier than thick-skinned varieties. Avoid fruit with soft, spongy spots or any signs of mold.
- Fully ripe oranges can sometimes turn green, especially Valencias; it’s called "regreening" and it’s a natural process that can occur if there is ripe fruit on a tree at the same time that the tree is producing blossoms. When the tree produces chlorophyll to feed its blossoms, the mature fruit also receives some, which contributes a green tint to its skin. Oranges that have "regreened" tend to be extra-sweet because they’re tree-ripened.
- Store oranges at cool room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Tips for using oranges
- Orange zest is intensely flavorful. Add it to dressings, sauces, baked goods and savory dishes to boost the orange flavor of your recipe. You can grate the colored part of the peel (the zest) with a Microplane or the fine side of a box grater, then freeze it for future use. Be careful not to grate into the white membrane (pith) beneath the peel; it’s very bitter. Zesting citrus is easiest to do before you cut into the fruit.
- Oranges can be used in an infinite variety of desserts; they have a natural affinity for tomato; and they add subtle undertones to savory dishes of chicken, duck, game and fish. They jazz up winter salads, their fresh juice helps keep the winter flu season at bay, and of course they’re delicious simply peeled and eaten out of hand.