Oranges are a delicious, nutritious, and refreshing treat. They’re perfect to pack as a snack for school, work or on an outdoor adventure. If you’re lucky enough to have your own orange tree, or if you’ve bought a large bag of oranges from the market, you may be wondering how long they’ll last. Can oranges go bad, and how should you store them?
Can oranges go bad?
Like all fresh fruit, oranges can go bad. As soon as an orange is picked from the tree, it will last about three weeks at room temperature. Of course, oranges at the grocery store are most likely already a week old, and so their shelf life will be reduced to about a week or two on your counter.
Storing whole oranges in the refrigerator can extend their life to up to two months. Refrigerated oranges should be stored in the vegetable drawer to maximize their shelf life, and regulate moisture. Just be sure you remember they’re in there!
Image used under Creative Commons from Francisco Antunes
Once cut or peeled, oranges should be refrigerated and consumed within two days. Cut oranges at room temperature should be consumed within the day, though will remain fine for several hours if sealed and stored out of direct sunlight.
Signs of Spoilage
When oranges are beginning to spoil, they will become soft at first, and then develop a white mold. The mold will quickly spread and turn green. Oranges should be discarded as soon as they start to become soft. Discoloration is another sign that oranges are about to spoil. When checking for signs of spoilage, look for lighter or darker patches, and check for firmness.
Smell is a good indicator of whether or not an orange has spoiled. Fresh oranges should have little to no scent at all, and any smell should be bright, and zesty. Any sour, rotten or fermented smells indicate spoilage, and the orange should not be consumed.
Oranges that have been stored in the refrigerator then to dry out over time. This will cause them to shrivel, and eventually become hard on the outside. While this does not necessarily indicate that the orange has become hazardous to consume, it certainly will not be palatable and should be discarded.
Storing Oranges Long Term
Freezing whole oranges to extend their shelf life is not recommended, as their high water content will break apart the cell walls, and you will be left with a ball of mush. Instead, oranges should be peeled and sectioned and their seeds removed before freezing. For best results, the oranges pieces can be covered in a sugar syrup, and then poured into an airtight container. Stored in this way, oranges can remain in the freezer for up to a year.
Another option for storing oranges long term, is canning. Because oranges are so acidic, they store quite well, and can be canned with a simple water bath. Wash the oranges, and peel them, then separate the orange into sections. Remove any remaining pith and seeds from the sections, and pack them in sanitized jars, with an inch of space at the top. Cover the orange sections with either water, syrup, fruit juice or any liquid of choice, leaving a half inch of space. Seal the jars and follow canning procedures. Once the jars have cooled, canned oranges may be stored at room temperature for a year or more.