Picking Citrus: Orange and Grapefruit

Today, fresh citrus–orangesand grapefruit especially–is available year-round thanks to citrus' versatility in different climates and regions around the nation and the world. Its durabilitymakes it available in stores at any time, making picking citrus fruits from the grocery store a tricky but doable activity.

Background on How Citrus Matures

When picking oranges and grapefruits from a supermarket, remember that citrus fruits are unlike most other tree fruits in terms of harvesting. Unlike apples or peaches which are ‘tree-ripe’ fruits, citrus fruits are generally not sweet at the time of picking. Instead, citrus fruits turn from immature to mature and to over-mature over a course of several months while remaining on the tree. Once picked, a citrus fruit does not change maturity, except that it will slowly dry out or decay.


Oranges are a great snack because they’re high in vitamin C. Indeed, one medium-sized orange can offer two-thirds of our daily dose of the vitamin. When picking out oranges, choose fruit that is firm and heavy for its size, with no mold or spongy spots. The color of an orange is influenced by cold temperature, so choosing an orange based off of its color won’t yield the juiciest fruit. Because oranges are sometimes dyed with food coloring, a bright color is not necessarily a good indicator of quality either Oranges can be stored at room temperature for a day or so. If you’re buying more oranges and want them to last for a while, store them in the refrigerator for about two weeks. For the juiciest, sweetest fruit, look for oranges that give off a sweet, clean fragrance when you smell them. A good rule of thumb: If it makes your mouth water when you smell it, it’s most likely a keeper. 


Grapefruit is larger than oranges and have a more tangy, less-sweet taste. As a citrus fruit, grapefruit is also high in vitamin C. Fresh grapefruit is available year-round, coming from Arizona and California in January through August and Florida and Texas between October and June. Choosing good grapefruit is a lot like picking good oranges. Look for fruit that is firm yet springy when held in the palm and pressed. Also, good grapefruits will be heavy for their size, indicating good juiciness. Like oranges, avoid storing grapefruits at room temperature for more than a day. Grapefruit can last in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.