I am all about doing things the right way. Taking the time to do things right whether your in the kitchen or out in the orchard always bring better results in terms of flavor. The term “heirloom” brings excitement to anyone enthusiastic about produce. A few years ago I discovered heirloom navel oranges and it was one of the best discoveries I have made in my food journey. What might be wondering what makes it different than the regular naval orange you are used to buying?
What Makes a Navel Orange a Heirloom?
The word heirloom itself means something that has been passed down from generation to generation. The heirloom navel is the same fruit that got California’s citrus industry booming. It’s the original or “old line” Washington Navel. The navel has been bred over the years to produce more fruit, easier, and faster without considering flavor. Heirloom navels are grown using certain farming practices. The grower gives special attention to the soil, just like it was done since navels were introduced to America from Brazil in the 1800s. The secret is to use the best root stock. The heirlooms grow best in a sour root stock. But these isn’t commonly used anymore because the trees don’t produce fruit as heavily or as quickly than in newer root stocks. Doing things the right way is what gives the heirloom navels there amazing taste. If you have one of these, I think you will be disappointed if you ever buy the grocery market standard navel again.
Sometimes you find find heirloom navels still with their leaves intact and sometimes you won’t. Unlike the navel you are used to, heirlooms aren’t in stores year around. They typically will find them in stores from December into late April/early May with the peak being in the winter months. A couple of growers to look out for are Ripe to You and Cecelia Packing.
You will recognize Ripe to You by their black stickers with the website “ripetoyou.com” written on them. I have grown to trust that I am getting quality citrus whenever I see one of those stickers. They grow their heirlooms at Rising C Ranches in Orange Cove, California.
Cecelia Packing uses their Sky Valley label for their heirloom navels. I recently discovered them at Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s and was pleased with the quality and price. I also purchased one of their Cara Cara Navels at Whole Foods and wish I had bought more!
When are Heirloom Navels in Season?
Growing things the right way sometime takes more time. The first California Navels start to hit the market more than a month before the heirlooms. Around mid-January is when you can realistically begin expecting to see Heirloom Navels show up in your local store.
Do They Grow Heirloom Navels in Florida as well?
To me knowledge they do not. I have searched around on the subject and have come up empty handed. It seems to be a Cali only thing.
Have you had an heirloom navel? I would love to know what you think? Add your comments below to what other people are saying about heirloom navels. Here is one of my favorite comments I have gotten over the years. I love Janet’s enthusiasm for heirloom navels:
“I took a chance and bought a 6 pack of heirloom navel oranges from Sprouts in Oklahoma. OH. MY. SWEET. HEAVEN. A regular orange from the grocery store will NEVER make its way to my shopping cart, ever….again….. Although they are a little pricey, it’s so worth it! This heirloom orange smelled like real citrus oranges, it peeled so easy, the juice was dripping every where. I licked my finger and immediately thought, I’m wasting this precious juice! The sweeteness from this orange is an incredible treat. I ate the first as fast as I could. I ate a second, but savored every juicy bite and made it last a little longer. I wonder if I can order the heirloom treasures online. I always wondered why oranges don’t taste like the oranges I used to eat when I was a kid. Amazing how the smell, and the taste of this heirloom orange can transform you back in time. LOVE IT!!!”