Navel oranges are sweet oranges with that all-familiar “belly button” on the bottom of the fruit. They are sweet enough to eat right off the tree, or you can squeeze them to make orange juice. Unlike other sweet oranges, navel oranges are harvested when the weather is cooler. Since there are many navel orange varieties, harvesting can occur at different times depending on the variety.
Navel Orange Varieties
Navel oranges can be classified based on when during the harvest season they begin to mature and are ready to harvest. Early oranges include Beck, Cara Cara, Thomson Improved and Newhall, for example. Mid-season navel oranges include varieties such as Fisher, Washington, Fukumoto and Atwood. Examples of late season navel oranges are Autumn Gold, Lane Late, Barnfield and Powell.
When to Harvest
Navel oranges are typically harvested from fall through winter. Early varieties will start to ripen in September or October. Mid-season oranges are harvested starting around November or December, and late season varieties are typically harvested beginning in January or February and can sometimes be picked as late as spring. Oranges in the warmest climates will be ready to harvest earlier than those growing in cooler climates.
How to Harvest
Most oranges will be orange when you pick them, but if there is a little bit of green or brown on them, it's OK. Choose oranges that are heavy, round and firm. They will be mature and juicy. Discard shriveled or moldy oranges. Navel oranges ripen on the tree and should be ready to eat after you pick them. Peel an orange, eat it and learn what a mature fruit looks like. To harvest, twist and pull the oranges from the tree or use hand clippers to snip them off.
Don’t harvest a newly transplanted orange tree the first two years. Instead, pick off the oranges as you see them and discard them so the tree will use its energy for growth rather than fruit production. In the third year, go ahead and pick your oranges, which should equal about 10 to 15 lbs. worth. By the 10th year, your navel orange tree could produce between 100 and 150 lbs. of fruit. Navel oranges will keep for about a week on the counter or a month in the vegetable bin of your refrigerator. If you use a ladder to reach the top of the tree, use common sense. A second person who you can hand off oranges to is better than trying to load a bucket or sack that you’ll have to carry down the ladder with you.
- Photo Credit navel orange image by robert lerich from Fotolia.com
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