Navel Orange heartbreak

greentiger87November 14, 2012

My 5-6 year old navel orange tree is finally ripening its first real crop. I've tasted two along the way just to see.

1st back in September - Flavorful, but still had a strong bitterness. Fruit was starting to turn yellow

2nd at the end of October - Yellow fruit tasted like lightly sweetened water. Assumed it must just be unripe.

3rd today, November 14 - Bright orange fruit, looks gorgeous. Smells unbelievably good, peeling it filled the whole house with the fragrance. Tastes... like slightly sweetened water. Literally. No detectable acidity at all. Like I had diluted orange juice 10 fold, and neutralized the citric acid.

What's going on? The tree is otherwise picture of health, save some cosmetic damage from leafroller/miner I'm 99% sure this isn't the rootstock bearing fruit.. it still has the original trunk, and certainly never froze to the ground. Pretty sure the rootstock is Carrizo Citrange. Rainfall was heavy early in the year, but the tree is planted on a mound and french drains prevent flooded conditions...vegetables a couple yards away had no problems.

I'm kind of heartbroken, tbh. If this is how these oranges will always taste, then I'm going to have to prune it with a shovel. The garden real estate is too valuable.

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Well, it could be the variety; you said "Navel"; there are many varieties. There is one called the Spanish sugar navel that has the flavor you describe; I have two of those trees and no one likes them... I got them before I knew what they were. My favorite navel is the Cara Cara.

If it is a Washington navel, it doesn't really get "ripe" till about Christmas, so maybe there is still hope.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 5:10PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

Well, as John has mentioned, it might help a bit if we knew the variety navel. There are several in Texas. That way, you'll know exactly when they ripen. For me in California, the Washington Navel is our predominant navel orange tree, and it doesn't ripen up until around December (November through January, but for me, Dec-Jan they are the best). So, if it's a Washington Navel, you're still a bit early I think.

The two more common navel orange trees are 'Everhard' and 'N33E', though, which do ripen earlier, I think in September. You'd know if this was rootstock fruit. It would be very sour with no navel. The leaves would be trifoliate (3 in a group). Are you fertilizing your tree regularly?

Patty S.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 5:53PM
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Unfortunately, I don't know the variety :( My dad bought this tree randomly from home depot or lowes without really paying much attention.. I just adopted it a couple of years ago. It's had lots of attention, mulch, and fertilizer over the last three years or so, and has responded with incredible growth and a huge crop. I'm pretty diligent about foliar micronutrients as well. The only other significant feature I can think of is that the flesh is a very dull yellow, rather than the darker orange one might expect. Compared to taste of my neighbors ruby reds, it's night and day.

I'll have to be patient I guess. At least I can use all the peels...

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 7:28PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

It the skin dark orange or is it more yellowish? Sounds to me like you've got something other than a tasty navel orange. It does have a navel, yes? And the Red Navel (or also known as Cara Cara) is very, very sweet. My favorite navel orange (like John). And, most other navel oranges' flesh are nice and orange. I think perhaps? you either have some other less desirable navel orange, or even possibly a seedling cross of something that ended up not being particularly good.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 10:03PM
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i have a N33 navel. sept, oct and nov is too early for us in Houston. we've only had two real cold fronts. mine don't start to turn yellow until late Oct, mostly yellow in Nov and a nice solid orange in Dec/Jan. wait till around Christmas time and try another.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 12:48AM
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Washington Naval orange does not ripen until late January early February. May be because we are in the north and they don't get full sun and flower until May. May be it is different story in Warmer climate.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 6:12PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

My Washington navel doesn't ripen until January. But that's in a greenhouse in Alpine TX at 4500ft elevation. I would think that heat units would affect ripening dates to some extent. So mine probably won't ripen when they do elsewhere.

Many point out that fruit from young citrus trees isn't as good eating quality as from a mature tree. I suspect this is related to more vigorous growth from a young tree. Too much water and fertilizer lowers the sugar of almost all fruits. So that may be a factor here as OP says the tree is very vigorous.

The biggest misconception of people trying my fruit is to think that the first fruit they try of a particular variety defines that fruit forever, wrong. You need to eat a lot of any fruit for several years to really know what a particular fruit will do. For citrus you may need to wait until the tree settles down.

In short it could be your culture as much as the variety. Some things you can't change about your growing conditions others you can.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 11:24PM
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If this variety is a Washington Navel, I agree with previous posters regarding letting fruit ripen and turn a strong orange in sun. My Mom picked some fruit 3 weeks ago and they were slightly tart and semi-sweet and the color favored yellow more than orange. Now the color really glows orange and the fruit has come into what I remember: Super sweet and juicy!

I'm hoping your experience is similar after a little time.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2014 at 9:50PM
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If you have a tree from a "big box" store, no telling what exact
variety you have. But Fruitnut is correct about young trees being poor quality.

You should let the fruit get fully ripe. But if it lacks acidity that may not fix the problem. Fruit taste sometimes varies. My Page trees have always been excellent. This year they bloomed late, and one tree made bland fruit.

Make sure you are getting enough potassium. If you are adding Epsom salts (magnesium) for chlorotic leaves then, You may be flushing out your soil potassium. Next year I'm going to go back to potassium,magnesium sulfate. Even though that stuff gets hard as a rock.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2014 at 11:15PM
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I think you just picked them too soon. I haven't even picked the first orange off my tree this year yet. They take awhile to get fully ripe. When they are ripe they are sweeter and more juicy than anything I have ever got from a store. With mine I never fertilze them or anything I just let them grow naturally in the ground and prune them back when they get so large I can't walk between them anymore.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 1:19PM
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longer on the tree might generate more sugar; but not acidity. The only navel orange I have ever tasted that fits the flavor description of the OP is the Spanish sugar navel; it is sweet, but with no acidity/citrus character.

The only other explanation is that the tree is just too young to make good fruit; and it might get better in coming years.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 1:32PM
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