Oranges aren't always orange

Laurie Garretson

Visiting with a fellow gardener the other day, he mentioned how surprised he was that he had tasted a green orange that he found under one of his orange trees, and it was delicious and sweet. But why wasn't it orange? Ripe oranges are orange, aren't they?

Fact is in most warmer parts of the world, especially around the equator, ripe oranges are green, never orange.

As an orange matures, it is full of chlorophyll. If exposed to cool temperatures during the maturing process, chlorophyll will die off and the orange color comes through.

People living in southern countries, and especially near the equator, probably haven't ever seen an orange with an orange rind. All their oranges will have green rinds because of their warm climates.

Oranges in many parts of the U.S. and Europe are grown in warmer climates, picked when they are green and shipped to cooler places that don't grow citrus.

Since oranges do not continue to ripen once they are harvested, many green oranges are artificially colored orange. For an orange to be sellable here in the U.S and many parts of Europe, it's thought that green oranges would be considered to be unripe and nor sellable to the general public.

The most common ways used to color oranges are to expose the green fruits to ethylene gas, which breaks down the chlorophyll, or to expose the fruits to cold temperatures. Another very common way to color green oranges is to dye the fruits. Oranges are usually dipped in wax after the coloring process is done to hold moisture in the fruit and extend the shelf life. Just know that an orange doesn't have to be orange in color to be a true orange.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.

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