California, Florida, Texas, and Arizona produce our year-round supply of oranges. Leading varieties from California and Arizona are the Washington Navel and the Valencia, both characterized by a rich orange skin color. The Navel orange, available from November until early May, has a thicker, somewhat more pebbled skin than the Valencia; the skin is more easily removed by hand, and the segments separate more readily. It is ideally
suited for eating as a whole fruit or in segments in salads.
The western Valencia orange, available from late April through October, is excellent either for juicing or for slicing in salads. 17 Florida and Texas orange crops are marketed from early October until late June. Parson Brown and Hamlin are early varieties, while the Pineapple orange — an important, high-quality orange for eating — is available from late November through March. Florida and Texas Valencias are marketed from late March through June.
The Florida Temple orange is available from early December until early March. Somewhat like the California Navel, it peels easily, separates into segments readily, and has excellent flavor. Oranges are required by strict State regulations to be mature before being harvested and shipped out of the producing State. Thus, skin color is not a reliable index of quality, and a greenish cast or green spots do not mean that the orange is immature. Often fully matured oranges will turn greenish (called “regreening”) late in the marketing season.
Some oranges are artificially colored to improve their appearance. This practice has no effect on eating quality, but artificially colored fruits must be labeled “color added.” “Discoloration” is often found on Florida and Texas oranges, but not on California oranges. This is a tan, brown, or blackish mottling or specking over the skin. It has no effect on eating quality, and in fact often occurs on oranges with thin skin and superior eating quality.
Look for: Firm and heavy oranges with fresh, brightlooking skin which is reasonably smooth for the variety.
Avoid: Light-weight oranges, which are likely to lack flesh content and juice. Very rough skin texture indicates abnormally thick skin and less flesh. Dull, dry skin and spongy texture indicate aging and deteriorated eating quality. Also avoid decay — shown by cuts or skin punctures, soft spots on the surface, and discolored, weakened areas of skin around the stem end or button.