Navel oranges are medium to large in size, averaging 6-10 centimeters in diameter, and are globular to slightly oval in shape with the trademark “navel” or circular hole on the blossom stem end. The medium-thick rind matures from green to bright orange and is smooth with a pebbled texture due to many oil glands found across the surface. Underneath the outer layer of the rind, the white pith clings to the flesh, but is easily peeled and has a spongy texture. The pale yellow-orange flesh is juicy, tender, seedless, and divided into 10-12 segments by thin membranes. Navel oranges are aromatic, sweet, and contain a low-acidity which produces a balanced level of sweet, tangy, and tart flavors.
Navel oranges are available in the winter through spring.
Navel oranges, botanically classified as Citrus sinensis, are a winter variety that grows on evergreen trees reaching over six meters in height and belongs to the Rutaceae or citrus family. Also known as the Washington Navel, Riverside Navel, and Bahia Navel, there are over fifty different varieties of Navel oranges, and these oranges are considered to be some of the most popular citrus fruits in the world. Navel oranges are grown by grafting due to their seedless nature, and because of this, the trees are all genetically identical clones of the original tree discovered in Brazil in 1820. What makes Navel oranges unique are their small holes or “navels” resembling belly-buttons at the blossom stem end. These small holes are created by a genetic mutation where a secondary orange grows within the larger fruit. Navel oranges are predominately favored for fresh eating and are also used by chefs and home cooks for zesting, flavoring sauces, and as a garnish.
Navel oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C, dietary fiber, and thiamin and also contain potassium, vitamin A, beta-carotene, and calcium.
Navel oranges are best suited for both raw and cooked applications, but their balanced flavor is showcased when used fresh, out-of-hand. Sweet and easy-to-peel, Navel oranges can be segmented and tossed into green salads, blended into smoothies, garnished over cooked meats, or served over grain bowls and yogurt. The fruit can also be served over toast with melted brie, chopped into salsa, or topped over vanilla ice cream. The rind can be used to flavor baked goods such as cakes, zested to create flavored salts and sugars, or used as a flavoring for syrups, curds, and doughs. In addition to fresh applications, Navel oranges can be roasted to create a sweet layer of caramelization and are served with cinnamon as a dessert. While the fruit does contain a substantial amount of juice, Navel orange juice is recommended for immediate consumption. The juice contains an antioxidant known as limonin which causes the juice to turn bitter or sour after about thirty minutes of exposure to air. Navel oranges pair well with strawberries, bananas, coconut, pomegranate seeds, dried fruit, cucumber, snap peas, cabbage, cilantro, red bell pepper, quinoa, honey, Greek yogurt, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, sesame seeds, meat such as poultry, pork, steak, and salmon, shrimp, and scallops. The fruit will keep up to a week at room temperature and up to two weeks when stored in the refrigerator.