ORANGE | How Does it Grow?

ORANGE | How Does it Grow?

December 8, 2019 100 By William Morgan


Can you tell which orange is ripe and ready to be eaten? You can’t! Because you’ve been picking your oranges all
wrong! Okay here’s the deal: skin color means nothing when it comes to taste…This one, this one, and this one are all ripe! Skin color is just a temperature thing! Cool night turn the fruit from green to orange, but a heatwave can turn the fruit back to green! In Thailand, oranges are sold as a green fruit. So who can tell when an
orange is ripe? This guy – (Bill): Yeah… Bill head Sundance Organics in San Diego County, California, and he’s my guide to America’s favorite fruit. We consume more oranges than any other fruit. When you count juiced oranges. 95 percent of Florida oranges are grown for juice. Here in California, most are sold as whole fruit, so these have to look as good as they taste. That means oranges here are picked by hand. (Bill): Hey Nicole, let’s get back to work! (Nicole): And it’s back-breaking stuff! These guys work fast and hard in the blazing sun. They swing their ladders against the trees, trusting them for support and reach deep into the sharp punishing branches to find the fruit. When it was my turn, I wanted to learn
from Nacio. (Nicole): Okay these are sleeves that protect my arms from being scratched. Gloves…this is like surgery… Think I have two dozen fruit in here…this thing is heavy! We have to really…get into the tree to get these oranges. (Nicole): Yeah…oh…thank you…yes…oh now…now I’m a real picker! (Nicole): Thank you very much! So California oranges are mostly Navels and Valencias. Navels are winter fruit, they’re the ones with the little belly button. Navels are generally sweeter, and also seedless. Valencias are summer fruit, they are significantly juicier, and sometimes have a few seeds. (Nicole): Bill, how do you tell when an orange is ripe? (Bill): When it tastes good… (NIcole): Is it good, Bill? (Bill): I’m in heaven! Bill explained oranges growing on the south side of a tree will often be sweeter. The south side gets the most sun, and plants convert energy from sunlight into sugar. Citrus is one crazy family of fruit. If you plant an orange seed, you might get a lemon, or a grapefruit! That’s why they don’t just toss seeds in the ground. They plant young grafted trees. What’s grafting? Check out our Apples episode, where we break it down. Baby oranges look like little limes on the tree… From flower to fruit, Valencias take up to 15 months to mature; Navels up to a year. To grow 50 acres of perfect looking organic citrus is really tough. Bill let’s native plants grow, to encourage good bugs to hang around and eat the bad bugs. Now, here’s the thing about bugs: they’ll
nibble at your crop, which is bad; but they’ll also spread disease, which is worse. In Florida, the growth has been devastated by HuangLongBing, a disease that rots the fruit and kills the entire tree. Last season’s harvest was cut in half. So far California’s been spared… (Bill): The growers here are terrified, yeah it has the potential to completely decimate our crop. I’ve been supporting researchers in Iran, actually, who are trying to find a cure. (Nicole): So it’s in Iran, the diseases is also there? (Bill): There are American kids in Iran right now doing…uh…catching bugs, to try to find a predator. Once the oranges are picked, they go to the packing house, where they’re inspected, cleaned, and sorted. The washing process is required by law, but it removes the natural coating that prevents oranges from immediately rotting. At Sundance, they use beeswax, which Bill says is ten times more expensive than the petroleum-based stuff. By the side of these beautiful rolling hills of Orange Groves, it’s hard to believe that they weren’t always here. Citrus first came to America with Columbus, and long before that, it only grew in Asia. But oranges are now rooted in Southern California culture. In fact the county next door is named after the orange. Ironically, there are no groves
left in Orange County…The sunny citrus paradise attracted too many people. Real estate edged out Agriculture, and it’s starting to happen here in San Diego County. On top of that, there’s been a terrible drought and water restrictions. The fate of the groves is a little uncertain… (Bill): Yeah I came here when I was 18, and I walked into a large grove in the springtime, and I thought I’d died in the winter time. (Nicole): So your Heaven smells like orange blossoms…I think I want my Heaven to smell like orange blossoms…