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Why is my orange green?

Fruit fact! Despite their name, oranges are winter fruits that need cool weather to get their namesake color. As the fruit matures on the tree, it develops chlorophyll, which is vital for photosynthesis and allows fruit to absorb energy from sunlight. Cold nights cause the fruit to lose the green pigmented chlorophyll and develop their deep orange color, similar to leaves on a tree in autumn.

If you come across an orange that is green-tinged, this doesn’t mean it’s not ripe. Rather, when the weather warms up again in late spring and early summer, the citrus tends to regreen to protect itself from sunburn.

For us in Northern California, we’ve recently had spikes of hot weather that have caused Navel oranges to develop their green color again. The color has no impact on flavor, but as this variety is winding down for the season, it won’t be as flavorful as the Navels we had several weeks ago. 

We’re about to transition to the Valencia orange, which is a summertime variety that is more adapted to warmer weather. Valencias contain seeds and have a balanced tangy-sweet flavor that make them great juicing oranges. They’re generally lighter in color than navels, and are also a bit green-tinged right now from being on the trees during the recent hot weather.

So while color isn’t a great indicator of ripeness for oranges, picking it up and taking a look is. Look for fruits that are heavy for their size, are free of moldy, shriveled or brown spots, and have a sweet orange scent after scratching a bit of the skin. At Sigona’s, we pride ourselves on sorting the best fruits for our seasonal boxes, so you don’t have to!

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