Get the lowdown on Heirloom Navel oranges and why you should be picking them over the regular Navels every chance you get!
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I am all about doing things the right way.
Taking the time to do things right whether you are 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 is a Heirloom Orange
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.
👅 Do They Taste Different?
Yes. Imagine the navel orange flavor you are use to, turned up several degrees. They are sweet, juicy, and everything you want an orange to be. The flavor isn't unique different, just flat out better. Many people (I included) think they taste like oranges are suppose to.
Doing things the right way is what gives the heirloom navels their amazing taste. If you have one of these, I think you will be disappointed if you ever buy the grocery market standard navel again.
If you look closely at the photo above, on the left is a regular Navel and on the right is an heirloom Navel. The regular one has a lot more white pith around it than the heirloom.
🙋 Do They Have Seeds?
Just as regular Navels, the Heirloom Navels are seedless.
❄️ When are They in Season?
Unlike the navel you are used to, heirlooms aren't in stores year around. You typically will find them in stores from December into late April/early May with the peak being in the winter months.
The two top brands to look out for - Ripe to You and Sky Valley Oranges (packed by Cecelia Packing)
Several different companies pack heirloom navels.
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!
Sun Pacific calls them Vintage Sweets. Kroger carries as them as part of their Private Selection line. King's River calls them Heirloom Navels. I have tried all of these others. They are good, but I don't think they match up to the consistent quality from Ripe to You or Sky Valley. I hear that Heritage Reserve is another brand out there but haven't seen them.
🐊 Do They Grow Them in Florida?
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. Either that or they are already doing it the "right way"!
🛒 Where to Buy
Here are some stores you can look for heirloom Navels at when in season. Over the years, either I have seen them at these stores or one of my readers.
- Whole Foods Market
- Trader Joe's
- Kin's Farm Market
- Central Market
- Sonoma Market
- Market District
- New Seasons Market
- The Fresh Market
- Balducci's Food Lover's Market
- The Produce Station (Ann Arbor, MI)
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!!!"
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🍊 Other Citrus to Try
You want some more amazing tasty citrus like the Valentine Pomelo . Check out these varieties:
🥊 More What's the Difference Posts
We have a series of posts on the blog comparing different yet similar foods, here are some you should check out or read the entire series!
Thank you, for the kind words. We have felt for some time that we had something special in this ranch. You hit the nail on the head.
Thanks for the comment. You do indeed have something special, I am glad I discovered it and I hope more people do as well.
I love the heirloom navel Oranges and just discovered it this winter and eating only this orange the whole winter 🙂
Since I came across these a few years ago, each year I wait for Cecilia's Sky Valley oranges to hit the shelves at my local Trader Joes. I START my orange eating season when they come around and I don't eat any other grower's oranges any more (if only they were organic...). I swear I probably eat through one entire orange tree's worth of oranges by the time the last bags leave the store in early April. Now, if only I could find an old line washington navel orange tree with sour orange root stock to plant...
Good to see another fan out there!
Our local grocery store had "Heirloom" oranges on special a couple of weeks ago here in Glendora Calif
I have a young nephew who does not care for fruit but tried some of these oranges and got hooked on them.
Said they were just right and not too bulky like the other thicker skinned oranges.
Have called the grocery store to see if they are going to bring more product in.(Hopefully so!!)
Just bought my first Heirloom navel oranges today. I found it absolutely delicious but a bit difficult to peel. I will definitely buy them when they are in the store. I wish they were available year round.
I am glad that you found them. Once you go heirloom you never want to go back! You did point out the only drawbacks they have no being available year round and being difficult to peel - but they are worth it.
I found heirloom navel oranges at the Fresh Market in Spartanburg SC a couple of weeks ago and have fallen in love. I had jus complained that oranges don't taste like oranges anymore, and then I found these. I only bought a couple at first, then went back and bought a dozen, and am eating my last one right now. I am going after work to see if they have anymore and will be very disappointed if they are out! I wanted to know the difference between heirlooms and regular FL or CA navels, and now I know! Thanks!
Best oranges ever!
I love these Heirloom navels! I buy all I can get my hands on. With or without a sale! I'm crazy for them! LOL!
the best and sweetest navel orange I have ever eaten. have only been able to find them at Fresh Market in Knoxville.
Glad you found them. Amazing when things are done the right way, how good something can be! If you have a Whole Foods Market near you, you should be able to find them there.
I just discovered the heirloom navels last week as they were on sale at a local market bear my chiropractor. I stop in there after my appointments to browse the produce section. I was needing more oranges and got excited when I saw how gorgeous these looked. I bought 4 bags worth! I juiced them the next morning and oh my gosh!!! They are so sweet and yummy. Just like an orange should taste. I'm driving the 24 miles today to go buy a case because the sale ends today 😉
I just ate my first Heirloom orange this morning. We cut the last organic navel we had, ate half of it, then cut and tasted the heirloom. Definitely sweeter. I went back to Whole Foods and bought more this afternoon. The sticker said Heirloom 3107, gold on black. Nothing else. I've never seen them before yesterday. I will certainly look for them again. I hope to find them grown organically.
Glad you go to enjoy an heirllom navel. I have never seen any organic heirlooms as of yet. I recognize the sticker you are talking about. This is from Rising C Ranches or Ripe to You (http://www.ripetoyou.com/). Their website talks about their farming practices and there is contact information on there if you have more questions for them.
I'm 40yrs old. I just ate my 1st heirloom orange, and practically inhaled the 2nd one. You don't find these everyday in SC.
Awesome! They are usually only available from December to May, so you can't get them year round.
I recently discovered Ripe To You at Fresh Market and they are outstanding!! I have lived in Florida 34 years and I love citrus fruit. I try to buy local but I may have to make an exception when it comes to the first rate quality and flavor of the heirlooms. I will buy them again whenever I see them for sale
I bought our first heirloom oranges,and we will never want standard oranges again. These are so sweet and bursting with orange flavor. I had almost forgotten what an orange is supposed to taste like and usually use salt to bear the sourness. I won't be putting salt on these heirlooms. I'm hooked.
I had a heirloom navel orange this spring. Best orange I have ever ate. Great taste!
These oranges are so juicy. They taste like fresh squeezed juice.
I had not noticed in the Mega Foods grocery stores before. Doesn't mean they
were not there.
Price is very reasonable.
This variety is much taster than other navel varieties.
Happened to have the Ripetoyou.com black label
I swear these are the best oranges i ever had. I do my shopping at Food 4 Less which does not stock these. However, once I'm done shopping there, I head out to another store just for these. 🙂 I will never go back to eating regular navels again. Delicious!
I am glad that you found them. I do not eat regular Navels anymore. What store do you buy your Heirloom Navels at?
Sky Valley Heirloom Naval's are the best tasting oranges around. I want to know if you can buy a tree from them to plant at home
Like eating candy. Love those Heirlooms. First I have seen this season was yesterday at an Omaha HyVee where I usually don't shop. Got only a dozen, but hope to get back there while some Heirlooms are still available. Where else can I get some?
I am enjoying one now. It is sweet. Good color, juicy and fragrant. I paid $3.99 for 6. Will I do it again? Maybe. For me the issue is: Have I had oranges that were not Heirlooms that tasted this good? The answer is yes. But, its a crap shoot. When I buy in season Navels, I amy or may not get a great bag of oranges. I think with the Heirlooms, the likelihood of a great orange is higher.
I discovered the Heirloom navel orange at Whole Foods. My only complaint is that they are seasonal and I will not be able to enjoy them all year around!
I am re-landscaping my yard. I would love to plant an Heirloom orange tree. Are they available?
The best things never seem to be able year around, it's part of the fun though. As for growing your own tree, I did a quick search and didn't find anything what you need to look for is a Navel orange tree that is started on sour orange rootstock. Call around to nurseries in your area. I don't think heirloom oranges are a secret, just going back to growing Navels they way they did years ago that produces better tasting fruit.
At 61, it seems like nothing is as good as it was! These oranges bring back the
Memory of when everything taste better. Sadly Central Market is out, maybe I will check Trader Joes. Thanks for the flavor and the memories!
Glad you have gotten to enjoy them. The season should be over by know, so I would be surprised if you find them again before next December, but hopefully you can score one last one or one last bag!
For several years I've only bought Cara Cara oranges. This past season I got my husband to try them and when they went out of season I started looking for replacement. I don't buy the navel oranges they have in stock as it's always a gamble whether it will be good or not. Last week a new store opened and they had the Heirloom oranges. So decided to buy one and give it a chance. Really glad I did. I asked the produce guy where they came from and he said Australia. So I was delighted to read your blog and learn a little more about these really good oranges.
I bought a 40 lb in Loma Linda a few days ago because of the color - I have never seen oranges look that orange color in my life- I am trying to locate the packing in Fowler,Ca to buy some on my way back to my home near Portland,Or
Saw the heirloom oranges for the first time yesterday. The name is what caught my eye. The best tasting orange I have ever eaten. After the one I had to have the second one. I am going back today to buy two more bags even though my farm is 20 miles away. I grow heirloom apples on my farm so I know what real flavor is.
Glad you found them. Only Navels worth buying. What type of heirloom apples do you grow?
Thank you for producing theses oranges. I love them they are far superior to the regular navel oranges sold here inMinnesota.
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!!!
I didn't produce these myself but I am glad that you have found them and are enjoying them.
I am so happy to hear more and more people are being turned on to these oranges. It's amazing when you do the things the right way, how much better the flavor can be.
Bought a bag at Trader Joes.
Very tender, juicy and wholesome sweet!!
Glad that you found them. They are what a Navel orange should taste like! Thanks for leaving a comment.
I just had my first heirloom orange. I purchased it at The Fresh Market. I didn't know there was such a fruit. But since I am a gardener in favor of heirloom veggies ,I thought it was worth a try. Believe me it certainly was! So very sweet, flavorful and delicious! I'm going back for more while they are in season.
I could not agree more with you. I recently tried an organic heirloom orange and was shocked at how sweet and delicious it was.
Sky Valley Heirloom Oranges are out of Cecelia Packing I guess. They are simply the sweetest most flavourful orange I have ever eaten. They are the only orange that was so good that I felt compelled to look up on the internet. I bought them at Trader Joe's in Everett WA. I plan to make orange curd and marmalade while they are available.
I just recently had my first heirloom orange from Vintage Sweets Heirloom Navel Oranges--wow, it was the most delicious orange I've ever eaten!
The heirloom I can get have the gold on black labels. I haven't had oranges like these for years. Wouldn't bother buying any other now. I'm spoiled forever. I don't find them hard to peal as some have said but I wouldn't care. The juice is so sweet and runs down your chin. The others are tasteless and tough. I am in heaven here in Canada.. sure glad I found them as I had given up on ever finding a tasty orange again.
I first had skyvalley heirloom oranges this year from trader Joes. They are the best tasting oranges I've ever had.. We couldn't get enough of them. I went back to Trader Joes to get more and they were out. I drove all over town to whole foods trying to get more. Finally got more in at Trader Joes and I bought 4 bags. Can't wait till next year!!!
Picked up a three pound bag of heirloom navels today. Delicious, shall be buying these and Cara Cara's (a decendant of Washington navel) from now on.
I got hooked a few years ago and was disappointed that they are only in some stores in Alabama in mid January through April. They run out quickly. You are correct That once you eat one you won’t eat a different orange ever. And I haven’t. Someone commented About itgem being difficult to peel. I don’t peel them. I slice down the navel and cut wedges and eat them that way. I might lose a tiny bit of juice but cut them over a bowl or plate.
Those are both my go-tos this time of year.
Glad you had them. They are so much better.
At the store yesterday I just saw a bag of oranges put it in my cart and checked it off the list. Usually I buy "Cuties" the easy peel clementine oranges but they're super small right now.
Later that evening, after dinner, I cut one in slices for dessert still thinking it's just an ordinary orange though exceptionally perfect in appearance, blemish free, a happy bright orange color, and super juicy when opened.
Then I tasted it. Oh wow! "These are really good!" I said. Then had another. It was then that I dug the net/bag the oranges came in to see what kind I had bought. "Vintage Sweet Heirloom Oranges" A Sun Valley product. Other family members tried them and agreed that they are superior in every way.
The nerd in my looked them up online to learn a little more about heirloom oranges (thus finding your article) and all about foods with "high brix" (nutritional value and flavor) and discovered they're available for a limited time per year. Well, we have until about May to enjoy them.
Thanks for being a "nerd"! 🙂
Glad you were able to discover Heirloom Navels.
I completely agree that heirloom navel oranges are a cut above any other navel orange. The short time of availability is frustrating as well but it makes me savor them that much more. The way I cut mine makes the peeling issue no problem.
In Texas, the HEB chain has excellent heirloom navel oranges at a great price in season. You mentioned Central Market which is the upscale part of the HEB corporation. The Flagship HEB stores carry many of the Central Market specialty items and are more numerous by far.
The caveat to buying this delicious fruit is that it may ruin you a bit for other oranges
I am glad you have discovered them as well. I have been to HEB as well while in Texas. They have some great stuff.
They are amazing, another winter orange, Cara Cara is a close 2nd, and then blood oranges.