Oranges are a great source of fiber, potassium, and vitamin C. They are also the primary ingredient in the beloved orange juice that fills many refrigerators.
We’ve become so familiar with oranges that we think they’ve always existed naturally. However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Oranges are actually products of two citrus fruits, the pomelo and the mandarin, with the fruits contributing 25% and 75% of genetic material, respectively.
Another thing you may not know about oranges is that they aren’t always orange in color. The fruit’s color is a result of its climate and temperature. Oranges that grow in the tropics retain their chlorophyll to maturity. They remain green even when ripe.
There are also species of oranges that are red, like the Tarocco orange. It is seedless, has hints of red in its flesh, and has a similar shape to the tangelo. The Tarocco orange is sometimes called the blood orange because of its reddish hue.
Do oranges have seeds? Yes, oranges have seeds. Yet, two types of oranges exist in nature – ones with seeds and the ones without seeds. Seedless oranges, however, are the result of a natural mutation.
Where did Seedless Oranges come from?
The demand for seedless fruits rose in the most predictable way possible. People wanted to enjoy the sweet juice of succulent fruits but hated the tiny seeds. If you’ve ever sucked on an orange full of seeds, you’ll realize that it’s a chore and maybe more trouble than it’s worth. But besides being more enjoyable, seedless fruits also tend to have a longer shelf life.
The most popular seedless orange is the navel orange. It is the product of a mutation in a Laranja Selecta orange tree. The popular belief is that the navel orange was discovered around 1820 in Brazil, even though the specific details are debatable.
The navel orange got its name from the ‘second fruit’ that grows at the main fruit’s apex. The second fruit looks a little like a human navel, thus the name.
Navel oranges were eventually approved for production in the U.S in the 1870s when trees were planted. The trees bore fruits two years later, and navel oranges have been sold ever since.
The next time you’re shopping for oranges at the grocery store, look out for the size of the orange’s navel. It’s been shown that oranges with bigger navels are sweeter than those with smaller ones.
How are Seedless Oranges Propagated?
The next logical question is, ‘how do you plant and propagate seedless oranges since they don’t have seeds?’
Navel oranges are propagated by cutting and grafting. Small branches are cut from fruitful navel orange trees and planted or grafted onto another orange tree. In this way, every navel orange you’ll ever enjoy comes from the one original tree in Brazil.
Navel oranges are commercially grown mostly in Brazil, the U.S., and China. These three countries account for over 65% of all navel orange production. That’s a lot of cutting and grafting! As you can also imagine, all this production means that we’ll never run out of navel oranges. In fact, the pace of production has grown significantly since the fruit was first discovered in the 1800s.
Are All Seedless Oranges Genetically Modified?
No, seedless oranges are not genetically modified. As we discussed earlier, the navel orange was discovered due to the Laranja Selecta orange tree’s natural mutation. Even though seedless fruits aren’t common, they exist in nature.
That being said, many seedless fruits, like watermelons, were definitely engineered in the lab.
Which Oranges have Seeds in them?
There are two popular types of oranges, the seedless ones and those with seeds. Navel oranges are seedless, while Valencias have seeds. Some other oranges with seeds include the Hamlins, blood oranges, and tangerines.
Valencia oranges got their name from the Spanish city where they are grown in large numbers. It’s become increasingly challenging to find Valencia oranges because of Navel oranges’ public appeal. Except for a few farmer’s markets, most retailers don’t stock them in the U.S. However, they are still prevalent in places like India and many parts of Africa.
What is Citrus Greening?
Citrus greening is a disease that’s caused by two types of bacteria. They spread from tree to tree through tiny insects and affect the orange trees produced. Citrus greening causes oranges to become green, bitter, small, and inconsumable.
Why is this important? Scientists believe that genetically modifying oranges might be the solution to citrus greening. So even though we didn’t need lab experiments for seedless species, we may never enjoy another succulent orange without them.
Unfortunately, navel orange trees’ seedless nature means you can’t plant your own by buying a fruit. You’ll have to find a tree and cut off a branch. You also need to live in an area that’s suitable for orange growth. The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map can be handy for finding the best spot for growing these fruits.
The sweet spot is hardiness zones 9, 10, and 11. These would be the southern half of the country and along the coastal margins. The weather there is warm and sunny enough to support the trees’ growth. Ideal planting time is early to middle spring so that it can grow through spring and summertime.
When mature, you can expect your navel orange tree to grow up to 30 feet tall. The fruits can be as large as 4.5 inches in diameter.
- Seedless oranges exist naturally. They originated from a mutation in the Laranja Selecta orange tree.
- The navel orange is the most popular seedless orange. It’s named for the secondary fruit resembling a human navel that grows on its apex.
- The bigger the orange’s navel, the sweeter the fruit.
- Navel oranges are propagated by cutting and grafting.
- The most popular oranges with seeds are Valencias, Hamlins, blood oranges, and tangerines.
- Scientists believe that GMO is the solution to citrus greening.
- The best climate for cultivating navel orange trees is found in the southern half of the U.S.