We’re almost in the doldrums of winter in Chicago, and soon you'll be wishing you could be whisked away to a tropical location at a moment’s notice. If a trip to Florida or the Caribbean isn't an option, why not take a bite out of an orange instead? It's almost the same.
Oranges, and other types of citrus like grapefruits, tangerines, and clementines, not only taste like sunshine, but they are also powerful natural sources of vitamin C and antioxidants, both of which can help stave off winter colds and prevent diseases.
Here's a quick rundown on how to pick out the best ones!
How to pick a ripe orange
Oranges are typically available from November to April and are most flavorful in mid-season. Navel oranges are sweet, juicy and don’t have any seeds. Cara Cara oranges are sweeter and have a deep red flesh.
A darker orange doesn’t mean it will taste better. In fact, many growers use food coloring to make their skins appear darker, so color isn’t a good indicator of taste. Instead, look for oranges that are shiny and feel heavy for its size — this means they’ll be juicier. Good oranges should also smell fragrant and should not have any signs of mold, such as white spots.
California navel oranges usually arrive around the second week of November and go through late spring. The earliest ones have less orange color and less sweetness. In February, March, and April, the peak months, California navels get very sweet.
Cara Cara oranges, a type of navel orange grown in California's San Joaquin Valley, are available December through April. The bright orange exterior of Cara Cara oranges is similar to other navels, but their interior is a distinctive pinkish red, has an exceptionally sweet flavor with a tangy cranberry-like zing, and they’re seedless.
How to pick a ripe grapefruit
Although some people don’t like the strong, acidic taste of grapefruits, both red and white grapefruits are great sources of vitamin C and fiber. Red grapefruits are sweeter than white ones and don’t have seeds.
No matter what the variety, look for ones with firm, shiny skin that feel heavy for their size. Don’t worry about whether the skin has some green on it; as with oranges, the color outside won’t determine how it tastes inside.
How to pick a ripe tangelo
A hybrid between a grapefruit and a tangerine, tangelos have a mild, sweet flavor and are known for being very juicy. You can spot a tangelo by its bright reddish-orange color, and by the fact that it has a “neck” that makes it look bell-shaped.
Unlike oranges and grapefruits, the outside color of a tangelo does determine how ripe it is inside. Tangelos get redder as they mature. Also, Minneola tangelos tend to get softer as they ripen.