What could be a better snack than a navel orange? Universally considered the best oranges for eating out-of-hand, seedless navels have juicy flesh, easy-to-peel rinds and an irresistibly pure, sweet orange flavor. All navels have an opening at the blossom end of the fruit that resembles a belly button – hence the name “navel.”
Key Attributes of Navels
- Sweet and juicy
- Relatively easy to peel
- Available from November through June
The History of Navels
The navel orange was discovered in 1820 in Bahia, Brazil, when a mutation occurred in a grove of sweet orange trees. In 1872, Brazil sent a dozen navel seedlings to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. The next year, Mrs. Eliza Tibbets of Riverside, California, was given a seedling from the USDA, and the seedling began producing fruit in 1878. This variety of orange became known as the Riverside Orange, but the name was changed to Washington for better national appeal. Other varieties of the navel orange include Atwood, Thomson, Fisher, Lane Late, Fukumoto, and Beele.
By 1882, over half a million citrus trees were growing in California. This time in history became known as the “other” California Gold Rush, which established
the citrus industry. Today, the parent Washington navel tree still stands in Riverside, though it was transplanted in 1902 from its original home to a different location. Despite its age, this tree, which is now protected, continues to bear fruit.
Because navel oranges are seedless, they can’t reproduce through pollination and require “budding” or grafting to create new trees. This process is done by taking a bud from a navel tree and grafting it onto another citrus plant. Because the budding process is used, navels today have the same genetic makeup as the first navel orange from the original tree.
Did You Know?
An orange tree can grow to reach 30 feet and live for over a hundred years.
How to Care For and Store
Navels should be stored in a cool, well-ventilated area. Typically, storing oranges between 45°–48° F is best. Navels can stay at room temperature for a week. If refrigerated, they can last for up to 2 weeks and longer.
Selecting your Navel
- Select a navel that is firm, shiny and heavy in your hand for its size
- Make sure that the orange doesn’t have soft spots or wrinkled skin
- Check its scent – it should smell good, not rotten or fermented
- While it is important that the navel is heavy and shiny, other elements of its visual appearance are not. Scarring and an imperfect orange color are not indicative of the flavor of the orange.
2–4 squeezed oranges = 1 cup orange juice
1 medium navel orange = 10–12 segments
1 medium navel orange = 4 teaspoons of orange zest
Consume freshly squeezed juice within 48 hours.
How to Enjoy
Peel and eat for a quick, easy and nutritious snack on the go!
Use the skin to make candied peels or preserves.
Marinate chicken in the juice, zest and fresh herbs for a light meal.
Dip navel segments in chocolate for dessert.