Navel oranges look unripe in San Diego

This might be obvious to the experienced Southern California growers here, but I realized something about citrus in San Diego.

A few years ago I grafted a number of variants of navel oranges, mostly out of curiosity about what really was different about them. I tried late varieties (Lane Late, Chislett) Fukumoto and Fisher (early) and a few others. Now having sampled them, I don’t think any of them taste any better than Washington Navel. I don’t think the early varieties really ripen appreciably ahead of Washington Navel either.

What I have observed is that you can eat a navel orange in mid-November, and it will be yellow-green and yet taste ripe. San Diego navel oranges actually have such poor “orangeness” color that it is said that we have to ship them internationally because people in the US think they are not ripe and will not buy them.

As a backyard grower, I have gotten used to the idea that yellow-green color can still be quite ripe. Today when I pruned out my Fukumoto graft, I was struck by the color difference.

On the bottom left of the photo will be Cara Cara and on the top

right is Fukumoto


Here is the cut version of the photo. Left is Cara Cara navel and the right is Fukumoto navel.


They look pretty good to me.
We are still about 2 weeks away from fully ripe Washington Navels, here in NorCal.

Every video about growing citrus tells you that the ripeness is not based on color and ripeness is kind of just trial and error from what I have seen. To me at least no orange is as good as the Cara Cara orange for my tastes anyway. I have not tried a blood orange as I have not really seen them in stores so I have not tried all of them. The Cara Cara just has that super sweet taste with some tangyness which I like. Same reason I like mandarin. Mandarin have that super sweetness with that tang.


I am in Rancho Bernardo area of San Diego. I have both Cara Cara and Washington navel. Both are excellent oranges in my opinion. At my house they turn orange when ripe. Mine would be sour if I picked them with a green color like yours. They typically aren’t ready until late December at my house. Sometimes they are sour even when completely orange. I usually go by feel. If they don’t feel hard when being squeezed they are ripe. What part of San Diego are you? I am wondering if it has something to do with the micro climate where you live.


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My Washington Navels are still very very hard, although they are a bright orange. My tree isn’t doing so well, so I do not have high hopes for the fruit this year.

I’m just across the 15 from you in PQ.

Jason - Sorry to hear that your Washing Navel isn’t doing well. Any idea what might be wrong?

Oranges turn orange when it gets cold enough at night. In my greenhouse Washington turned orange well before it was ripe because it drops below 50F at night in October. At least that’s my understanding.


Good input everyone. Yes, mine are on a south facing hill, they get amazing sun all day long even in the winter. They do have a good microclimate. Some fruit on the tree are more orange than the sample photo. Mine are ripe for eating in mid to late November in terms of balanced sweetness and acidity and good flavor.

Fruitnut, the color being determined by low temps is true in my experience. My parent’s navel oranges in the Bay Area are a deep beautiful orange around Christmas time. They are delicious but way more acidic than one would prefer. I always ate them anyway but the yellow San Diego ones are sweeter. When my dad visited last year and he ate a yellow one he said “wow, that was a lot better than I expected from the color.”

yeah,it is said that cold destroys the type of chlorophyll on citrus rinds. It may explain why oranges in cali are a deeper orange than those in florida(you can’t possibly grow coconuts in so cal, but will be able to in many parts of FL). In southeast asia, oranges and tangerines ripen mostly green, or yellow-green Below was my perante orange(supposedly a hamlin cross) in manila which one would think will be sour, but it is actually already ripe and sweet. Also not sure why oranges in florida and southeast asia tend to have more tang in them, whereas oranges in cali have a milder flavor, makes me think also due to weather conditions.


I’ve been doing my best to kill that tree for about 5 years. It was a nice sized (expensive!) tree when I bought it from a local nursery. I put it in the ground, but I must have messed up the drainage as it never thrived. It was in corner of the yard and I didn’t look at it too often, so it would get attacked by insects and I would only notice well after the fact.

As it was close to dying, I dug it up and placed it in a large (~15-20 gal pot). It recovered to a point, but never growth never really took off. This year I put it back into the ground in a spot that had much better drainage and where I’d walk by it often. It produced a lot of small fruit this year, but the leaves just do not look right. I’ll take a picture in a bit and post it.

True about the Bay Area. However, by March they are as sweet as any you’ll find. I just had my first orange off the tree this morning and it’s still too tart.

Fruitnut is right. The weather needs to get colder for the orange color to deepen. It’s been a relatively warm, dry winter for southern California due to “La Nina” conditions this year.

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@fruitnut that makes a lot of sense. My oranges are mostly on the north side of my house that gets a lot of shade and tends to stay cool. It would explain why my oranges always have a nice orange color and ripen later in the year.

It’s been years since I lived in citrus country, but my understanding is that oranges turn color when the temps drop below 50 degrees, ripe or not.