Nutrition Articles

Taste the Tropics This Winter

Oranges & Grapefruits are Perfect in Cold Weather

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My mom used to tell me about the thrill of receiving an orange in her Christmas stocking when she was a child. Today it's hard to believe that was the only orange she would taste all year long. The ever-popular oranges and grapefruits are available and reasonably priced in every season. But like most citrus fruits, they reach the peak of freshness in the winter months. When you slice open a perfect orange or pour yourself a glass of chilled grapefruit juice this winter, you’ll get more than just a pucker. Oranges and grapefruits pack vitamins that help boost your immune system during the colder months. Here's how to select, prepare and enjoy these winter favorites.

Popular Varieties

Two popular varieties of oranges are navel and Valencia. Navel oranges are in season from November through May, with peak supplies in January, February and March. They are seedless and considered the finest eating orange in the world. Valencia oranges are in season between February and October, with peak supplies in May, June and July. They have a thinner skin and only a few seeds.

While there are several varieties of grapefruit, Golden grapefruit (with honey-colored meat and bright yellow skin) and Ruby grapefruit (pink meat and blushed skin) are common. While some people believe the ruby grapefruits are sweeter, experts say there is no flavor difference between these two varieties. You can find grapefruits year round. Winter grapefruit are available from November through June and summer grapefruit are picked and available between June and October.

Buying and Storing

For the best taste and most nutrients, select oranges that are smooth, bright, firm, and heavy for their size. Oranges only ripen on the tree (during warmer months) and are picked when fully ripe. The color of an orange in the market is the same as the color when it was picked from the tree. Valencia oranges are subject to a condition called re-greening (they actually begin to turn green again, starting at the stem end, while ripening on the tree). This does not alter the taste or nutrition.

Oranges can be kept at room temperature for a few days. For longer storage, place them in a plastic bag or in a covered vegetable crisper in your refrigerator. Do not freeze whole oranges.

Select grapefruits that have flawless, firm, and smooth skins. Look for heavy—but not hard—grapefruits. The skin's color can vary depending on the time of the year and growing conditions. Grapefruits will keep at room temperature for up to two weeks. For longer storage, refrigerate in plastic bags or in a covered vegetable crisper.
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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

Member Comments

  • Oranges and grapefruit are my favorite! It is a shame that the Florida citrus greening, a disease that has affected nearly every orange grove in the state.The fruit on affected branches is small and bitter. Even worse, the disease eventually kills the tree. I hope the experts can fix this problem because I don't want to buy oranges and grapefruit from another state or far away places. I am thankful to have an orange in my regular eating plan. - 12/12/2015 12:55:07 PM
  • The picture alone makes me really want some! I have one grapefruit in the reds!...and some cuties in my veggie bin at home. I'll get some and eat some! - 12/12/2015 10:41:01 AM
  • Love Citrus. Just please be aware that grapefruit interferes with or can magnify the effects of many medications & prescriptions, esp. blood pressure meds. - 12/12/2015 3:37:00 AM
  • Zesting is one of the best affordable tips I know. It is virtually free because you would end up throwing the fruit peel away any way. It is a great way to add taste to many dishes. I love citrus zest on vegetables, fresh salads, baked goods or even in pancake batter. If you don't mind the sugar you can make candied citrus peel. - 10/10/2015 2:04:02 PM
  • GRAPEFRUIT and GRAPEFRUIT juice are not a good match with Cholesterol lowering medications check the instructions.

    - 1/23/2011 12:05:30 PM
  • Great article, assessing these fruits completely. Found myself studying and comparing them in the charts, weighing my preferences with the nutritional merits of choices. I love Valencia oranges, and was surprised that they have much less Vitamin C than do Navels! Thank you for comprehensive information! - 1/30/2009 2:27:56 AM

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