Unlike many fruits, navel oranges are at their sweetest and ripest in the fall and winter months. The Heritage Park Historical Museum and Carriage Barn exhibition titled “When the Air Was Pure and Money Grew on Trees” is a nod to the once-thriving citrus industry in Southern California. Imagine that every house you see is, instead, an orange tree.
The largest object in the exhibit titled “Living from the Land” is the orange sizing machine. It is approximately 12 feet long and made of red, painted wood. This was used to sort oranges by size before they were shipped off. Orange sizing rings are also a part
of the exhibit. There is a photograph behind this machine of farmers tending to the orange trees.
Navel oranges were developed by Mrs. Eliza Tibbets of Riverside, California, in 1873. There were found to be sweet and seedless, so they were very popular and soon shipped all over the world. People even ate them for dessert. For a long time, having an orange was a big treat because they weren’t readily available. But by 1940, there were 190,000 acres of orange trees in Southern California.
Today, there is a small orange tree grove in Heritage Park, but unfortunately the oranges cannot be picked. But if you have a tree at home or have permission somewhere else, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- The sweetest oranges are typically found high on the tree, on the outside, and on the south side of the tree.
- The color of an orange has no relation to whether or not it’s ripe. Yes, that means that the color can be anywhere from dark green to pink or dark red!
- Eat oranges as soon as possible
- Watch for firm, bruise-free skin
- Avoid tender spots or folds
- And of course, smell that strong, sweet, citrus smell!
To learn more about picking oranges, visit http://www.pickyourown.org/citruspickingtips.htm