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How To Identify An Unripe Orange – 3 Best Ways to Tell

How to identify an unripe orange? The humble orange is popular worldwide but especially in the USA, where in many states such as California, orange groves proliferate. California has so many orange groves that even cities such as Orange, CA, and counties are named after the orange– Orange County, CA exists. 

How to Identify an Unripe Orange

To identify an unripe orange you have to know the picking seasons for each type of orange. In addition, an unripe orange can be identified by bruising as it is hard to remove from the stem. Buy only one or two and open them up. Unripe oranges do not smell citrusy and are hard.

How to Identify An Unripe Orange
How to Identify An Unripe Orange

Orange Consumption in the US

Americans consume almost what can only be called barrels of oranges per year. Although other states produce fruit and grains, California accounts for approximately half of the production in the US. Fruits and oranges are at the top of the list of fruits that are grown and produced. 

Oranges are a citrus fruit and as of 2021, residents in the USA were consuming almost 26 pounds of these fruits per person. Of course, it is not all via the pure fruit itself but also through juices, jams, and jellies. 

Some individuals do squeeze their own orange juice and some purchase it and that must be factored into the consumption data. 

How Oranges Ripen

Whether you eat oranges or want to squeeze them for fresh juice, it is important to pick the ripest oranges possible. Oranges do not ripen quickly like bananas once picked. 

Bananas contain Ethelyn gas (C2H4). Bananas can be put in with oranges and other fruit to help them ripen sooner, even oranges! The riper an orange the sweeter it is, so eating or juicing a ripe orange is definitely better than an underripe orange. 

Oranges can look ripe on the outside as the color of an orange can be deceiving. Most individuals go to the market looking for bright orange colors when choosing oranges. The truth is that this is a poor indicator as most oranges are picked from groves when they are green. 

Color is not a reliable indicator of ripeness for oranges as sometimes food coloring might be injected into them to get the bright orange color.
Color is not a reliable indicator of ripeness for oranges as sometimes food coloring might be injected into them to get the bright orange color.

They are at their prime at this point and lose flavor during transport and while sitting on a shelf. Citrus fruits after picking do not ripen unless they are put in a bag with an apple or a banana

The orange color as well can be from food coloring that is injected into the skin of citrus fruit so again, consumers cannot assume an orange is ripe or unripe due to its color.

Most oranges are shades of colors naturally, from green to yellow, to flesh colorings.

Identifying an unripe orange takes a little detective work and knowledge on the part of consumers obviously. 

Oranges do not ripen as quickly as other fruits once picked from the tree.
Oranges do not ripen as quickly as other fruits once picked from the tree.

3 Ways to Identify an Unripe Orange

1. Know the picking seasons

Most individuals have a favorite orange, and the picking seasons can last from mid-March to May generally of the three most popular, Valencias, Mandarins, and Navel oranges. 

Picking seasons and ripeness go by “hardiness zones” determined by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), which is strategized climatically for data to ensure optimal ripeness before picking. 

Blood oranges and other varieties that are somewhat more unique yet tasty have different picking seasons. December to May picking season can determine the ripeness of Blood oranges or many other hybrids such as seedless oranges. Hybrids are simply cross-bred varieties of oranges. 

If you know the picking seasons you can determine the time they appeared in your market, given the time it takes for shipping.

Those that arrive before picking season (such as Valencias, Mandarins, and Navel oranges) were picked unripe. No question about it.  

2. Look for bruising

Thin-skinned oranges especially develop bruises easily when picked before they have ripened. Twisting off the branches causes this. Ripe oranges come off branches easily.

The greenish color indicates nothing about ripeness, but bruising is a sure sign that oranges were picked too early. 

It can be more difficult to tell with thicker-skinned oranges but bruising on them can also occur although not as much as on thinner skinned oranges.

Do not assume that the oranges were dropped if bruising shows. They were most likely picked too early and are unripe. 

3. Cut an orange open

If you grow your own you can easily do this. However, if purchasing from a market, it is more prudent to purchase one or two, rather than a whole bag, then bring them home and cut them open.

Once cut open they should smell citrusy, and taste sweet yet tangy. The flesh should be firm yet not hard inside. 

Any bitterness means they were picked unripe and since oranges do not continue to ripen after picking, they are still unripe. The orange color might be food coloring that was injected or even allowing the oranges to sit in the sunshine since chlorophyll increases the coloration on the outside. 

Chlorophyll, according to National Geographic Magazine, can turn oranges green initially and then orange when temperatures either increase or decrease so again, color is no indicator of unripe oranges. 

Also according to National Geographic Magazine, oranges can go from green to orange and back to green when temperatures rise and fall.

Sometimes the best way to tell if they are ripe is to cut open the orange. They should have a citrus smell and have a firm but not hard flesh.
Sometimes the best way to tell if they are ripe is to cut open the orange. They should have a citrus smell and have a firm but not hard flesh.

Conclusion to How to Identify an Unripe Orange

Since color really means nothing in identifying ripeness in oranges, only educating yourself on growing seasons for the type you enjoy will ensure you are purchasing or harvesting your own crop of ripe oranges. Research online reveals the harvesting seasons. 

If in doubt, cut an orange open and check for the sweetness of taste, and a nice fresh smell. If you live alone or are a small family, purchasing only a few at a time will reduce waste. 

If not used in a week or two, make orange juice and drink the nutrients. You can leave the pulp in or strain it out depending upon your own preference. 

As one of America’s favorite fruits for eating and juicing, oranges will remain a staple so getting the most flavor and juice is of course, important to enjoyment! 

If you can’t use up oranges right away, squeeze and make healthy orange juice.
If you can’t use up oranges right away, squeeze and make healthy orange juice.

Frequently Asked Questions to How to Identify an Unripe Orange

How Can I Tell if My Oranges Went Bad? 

If there is mold on the outside, they are bad. You cannot simply cut off the bad spots on the outside of an orange as you do with apples and other fruits. Bacteria on the outside cause mold which penetrates immediately to the inside of an orange. Mold on oranges will be white and they can become dry, bitter and hard inside.

How Long Can I Keep Oranges Stored Before I Use Them? 

The skin protects oranges from many of the elements so they last for weeks. You can refrigerate them or not, but using them quickly retains the flavor and keeps them from going bad. If you cannot use them quickly make orange juice by squeezing as oranges are high in Vitamin C and very healthy as they contain many other nutrients as well and provide fiber to a diet. 

My Oranges Seem Unripe As They Are Not Sweet. Can I Use Sugar? 

Some sugar is used in generic orange juices, as are other ingredients. Many individuals who find that their oranges are not sweet use honey instead to sweeten them as it is more nutritious. If you purchase orange juices check the bottle or carton for sugars and additives and try to purchase only 100 percent orange juice. In addition, frozen orange juice concentrates should also be checked for added ingredients.