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A Northerner Looking for a Good Orange!

Posted by swede1234 4 (My Page) on
Thu, Feb 23, 12 at 19:28

I'm not into growing oranges like most of those on this forum, being from Central MN where winter would just do them in... But for years I've been tired of the pithy, flaccid, and non-juicy oranges that are the general fare from our grocery stores. It's like eating "flavored leather", but some are all right if they are juicy enough inside, although they appear to be produced just to make them big, easy to peel, and seedless.

A year ago however, I found oranges that we're a little more expensive, come available about the first week in February. They were called "Heirloom " oranges- Sky Valley (from California?) and they were fantastic! They were juicy, firm skinned, and sharp flavored like I remembered when I was a kid, when all oranges had seeds. (although these are seedless). I kept on buying them until the season was over, and hadn't had a great orange since today, when the same brand came available here again this year.

This should keep me happy for now, but my questions to all of you citrus fans is, "Can you tell me what makes these oranges so special, where are more sources of similar oranges, how can I get them in our part of the world without freezing, and what ever happened to the tasty seed oranges I had when I was a kid?"

I wish you all well...
Thanks, Swede

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: A Northerner Looking for a Good Orange!

Sure :-) Growing conditions, variety and rootstock. You're enjoying the original Parent Washington Navel orange tree that was originally planted by Eliza Tibbets, in Riverside, California, back in 1873. Here is an actually well-written and sourced article about Eliza Tibbets on Wikipedia:

Wikipedia: Eliza Tibbets

All Washington Navel orange trees in the WORLD are from this original tree that Eliza Tibbets planted. The story is really quite amazing. I grew up in Orange County, California, and my first home was built in a navel orange tree orchard. We had 6 Washington navel orange trees in our backyard - my dad was responsible for convincing the developer to leave as many of those gorgeous navel orange trees planted as possible. We had orange everything growing up!

What makes these particular navel oranges so special? The old, OLD sour orange rootstock, the absolutely perfect growing conditions - dry weather, cold nights but not too cold, and abundant sunshine. Plus the correct soil. A perfect storm for citrus. California is a very unique state for citrus: We are the #2 citrus state in the USA, behind Florida, but interestingly about 97% of all citrus trees grown in the state of California are grown in the backyards of homeowners!! For example, in my small development of 23 homes, 24 have a citrus trees (even the empty lot has a lime tree and a lemon tree just growing happily with zero care). This is "citrus country" and the navel orange is our crowning glory. So, order yourself a lovely Parent ('Parent' referring to Eliza's "parent" tree) Washington Navel Orange tree from Four Winds. You'll get great oranges. Will they be as good as Sky Valley's?? Probably not quite as good, but they'll still be yummy, and they'll be yours ;-)

Patty S.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sky Valley Navel Oranges

RE: A Northerner Looking for a Good Orange!

Patty, what a fantastic response and thanks for that!

By the way, if I were to suggest an 'orange tree' to be home grown up north, indoors, then out, it would be exactly as you said.

Mine spend 6 months out of the year indoors, and then out. I still get sweet, juicy, ripe, and seedless oranges in which everyone that eats them says "they don't compare to the store bought ones and they are ten times better".

Mike from cold Massachusetts

RE: A Northerner Looking for a Good Orange!

Exactly, Mike. There is just nothing like the Parent Washington Navel orange. We've managed to develop several other navels along the way, like Cara Cara, which is a sport of a, yes, Parent Washington navel orange found all the way down in Venezuela of all places. It's good, very sweet, pretty flesh, but -- is still not as good as the original, in my very humble opinion. And something about right off the tree just gives you the ultimate and best flavor. That's why I'm always surprised when I hear people say, "why would I grow a variety I can readily get in the store?" Why? Because it's a hundred times better from your own tree. Plus, you know EXACTLY what's been put on that tree, in the soil, etc. Another interesting fact about that navel orange tree - within a short 9 year period of Eliza planting those two navel orange tree, there were over 600,000 Washington Navel orange trees in California, and the city of Riverside was the richest city per capita in the United States. All due solely to the Washington Navel orange!

Patty S.

RE: A Northerner Looking for a Good Orange!

Patty, I just wanted to say "thank you!!!" for all the valuable and fascinating information you contribute. I've learned so much just by reading everyone's contributions, but especially yours. You're my citrus heroine!

RE: A Northerner Looking for a Good Orange!

Now I do have to admit that a great navel orange is heavenly, but there is so much more to explore in the citrus world. Personally, I'm a mandarin hybrid fan. That mandarin "blood" adds a richness and depth of flavor that no navel has. Right now I can't stop eating Murcotts (Florida ones, also known as "honey tangerines"). In January it was Minneolas, and before that it was Nova. I've got a Page going now too so we will see if that lives up to the hype.

As for California varieties, there are a lot of seedless mandarin hybrids that have been developed recently, like Tango, Gold Nugget, etc. I've always wanted to try some but they are impossible to find here.

If I get a weird hair, I'll eat Pummelos for breakfast. They're like a sweet grapefruit that actually tastes GOOD.

RE: A Northerner Looking for a Good Orange!

Well thank you, Westy, that is so nice of you to say :-) I have a love for gardening, and have a very special place in my heart, and my garden for citrus. I think it really is because I grew up surrounded by citrus. My dad cherished those old Washington Navel trees that the developer left in the yards of all the houses. The developer left them because my dad stopped him from pulling out all the trees. He convinced that developer that he'd sell more houses if he left lots of trees in the yards. They did, my dad was right, and we had Navel oranges coming out our ears, lol!

Slopfrog, I'm a huge mandarin fan, too. I actually like them better than oranges. In fact, I'm eating one as I type - a Dekopan :-) And I have more mandarins than any other variety in my yard, eleven different varieties of mandarins:

Seedless Kisu
Frost Owari Satsuma
Gold Nugget
California Honey
Ponkan Manadrin

Right behind mandarins for me are pummelo or grapefruit hybrids. I have a total of 8 grapefruits/pummelos and their respective hybrids:

Rio Red
Oro Blanco
Valentine Pummelo
Mato Buntan Pummelo
Tahitian (Sarawak) Pummelo

And, 3 more "distant relatives:"

Wekiwa Tangelolo
Ortanique Tangor
Chironja Orangelo

I have a pummelo, grapefruit or hybrid every morning depending upon what's ripe, or juice 2 :-) Love 'em!! I probably eat between 1 and 4 pieces of citrus every day when they're in season in my yard. In juice, out of hand, salads, and in so many of my recipes.

Patty S.

RE: A Northerner Looking for a Good Orange!

Patty! Can I add another thank you for all you do here?

By the way, I am so anxiously waiting for the return of some pictures of yours once the weather holds up.
I miss your pics:-)

From a better feeling Mike these days:-)

RE: A Northerner Looking for a Good Orange!

No problem, Mike, glad I have a chance to "pay it forward" a little. And very glad to hear you're on the mend. I'll try to snap some pics as things green up here. I'm really struggling with significant chlorosis with a few of my citrus. I'm having a fellow CRFG and arborist/home orchardist come over on Saturday to look at a couple of my more severely affected trees. They all seem to recover after a period of time, but it's still disturbing to see a tree do so poorly, especially since I feel I know what I'm doing :-) I had this happen last winter, and a couple of my trees really looked awful. Those trees have recovered nicely. Now it's my Chironja and my Ortanique that are horribly chlorotic, no matter what I do. So, I think I just might have to wait it out like I've done in the past.

I'll snap some photos over the weekend as we walk through the orchard and I'll post them up, yellow and green!

Patty S.

RE: A Northerner Looking for a Good Orange!


Those trees should be so lucky to have you!:-)))
I know how much you treasure them and how hard you fight mother nature when she is against you for the safety of your trees.
Everyone of them must by like your extended family and worrying about them is very normal.
Those trees will be up and running perfectly for you in no time with all the wonderful care you give them. I saw them last year and they were just awesome!
You have that magic touch, and the know how to overcome adversities that are thrown your way, even the dreaded pest invasion and nutrient issues.

For someone too live so close to abandoned trees that no one cares for, that allow issues to creep very close to yours, you are a fighter and a trooper in my eyes.
There is not that many people that would work as hard as you to get to know their trees individually and keep them protected from anything that might attack them and still get them looking so nice and green in time.

My hats off to you good friend to the citrus world and here at these forums:-)

Good luck with the help you get and then you can share what you learned with us.


RE: A Northerner Looking for a Good Orange!

Well gang, I was the original person who posted my question about heirloom oranges... I've had some great times learning an amazing amount about citrus from you guys, and some ongoing conversations with my email link... I'm enjoying the heirlooms now in our local stores, but are they available in other times of the year?... they only seem to show up here in late February/early March...

Also Mike, when can I expect someone to develop a "Minnesota Hearty Orange!:... After all, how DO they develop fruits that can endure tougher conditions than nature provided... I've heard there's actually a peach tree which can grow in MN....

Take care, all!... "May trouble always be a stranger to you!".... Gary

RE: A Northerner Looking for a Good Orange!

Poor Gary, we sort of hijacked your thread, here. As far as whether or not there are more heirloom oranges available - depends. If you can find an "heirloom" Valencia grower, then the answer to that would be yes. Navels and Valencias ripen at different times. Washington navels are ripe between November and April, depending on where they're grown, and what variety. The Sky Valley navels are ripe and then in stores between January and mid-April, which is later by a Washington navel orange standard, but there are even later varieties, like Late Lane Navel, for example, which are ripe through June. Valencia come into season as early as March, and are usually available through September/October. The trick will be finding other "heirloom" orange orchards out there. I would contact Cecelia Packing, who now own Sky Valley, and see if they're aware of any other growers who can claim they are growing "heirloom" citrus.

Patty S.

RE: A Northerner Looking for a Good Orange!

Hi Patty,
I really appreciate all this info, and I think you may be just the right person to ask at least one of the many questions I have right now!

I live in western NY, and were technically zone5 but I live in a nice micro climate, thanks to Lake Erie!

Right now, I have 2 lemon varieties...Ponderosa, and Meyer(which I really enjoy for lemonade!), a Washington Navel, Keylime(which I may toss out this year since it has rarely fruited in the past 3 years.), and then my 2 grapefruit varieties, my new 'Star Ruby' and then an ORo Blanco grapefruit.

I really want 1 maybe 2 more potted citrus trees. I am having a heck of a time trying to decide. I have narrowed my choices down to 3. Either a Page mandarin, a Minneola tangelo, or a diffrent mandarin. I will have to look up the name of it again or ask Meyer Mike, as he just bought one for $38 but I honestly cannot remember the name now.

Thanks again for all the info and once I can get the name of that 3rd possibility you can help me.


RE: A Northerner Looking for a Good Orange!

Okay, as far as a good choice for a mandarin, I would consider either Gold Nuggest or one of the Satsumas, like Owari. Both have great cold tolerance and should do well and produce sweet fruit for you, and neither needs excessive heat to sweeten up. And, they are both excellent, high quality mandarins. At the UC Riverside Citrus Collection, the Gold Nugget actually fared better than the Owari Satsuma during some freezing temps, and the Owari is famed for it's cold tolerance. Page is also a very nice mandarin, I have one, and the flavor is outstanding. I am personally not a fan of the Minneola - too tart for my taste, but others just love it.

Patty S.

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