How do you know when your oranges are ripe? Are they ripe when they turn orange? Or is the answer more complicated?
In Southern California, the majority of oranges varieties mature from winter through spring. Navel oranges are generally harvested from January to late spring, with blood oranges in the same approximate seasonal range to slightly later. Lane Late navels mature from about February to June. Valencia types generally mature from about April to September.
Oranges do not ripen after being picked; they must remain on the tree to develop sweetness, which can take months. Sample a fruit or two to judge ripeness, as rind color may vary according to temperature, and try again 1 to 2 weeks later if oranges aren’t ripe. Firm oranges may not be fully ripe; most orange varieties soften at least slightly when fully sweet. Valencia orange types may shift back toward a green color after turning orange and before ripening. Navel oranges generally turn orange while still tart and acidic, long before they are ready to harvest.
Once ripe, oranges generally hold well for weeks to months on trees. When oranges become overripe they soften, begin to rot on the tree, and/or fall from the tree.
To produce the sweetest and most-flavorful fruit, discontinue watering citrus 2 to 5 weeks before harvest, which will concentrate sugars and flavor proportionately to water in fruit cells.
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