A Seasonal Guide to Orange Varieties

Orange season is now in full swing! There's no better time to make the most of the sunny, sweet citrus. Here's a quick guide to choosing the best varieties.

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Come winter, oranges will cure what ails you in the kitchen.

Want a hint of sweetness? Add a little juice.

Need a flavor lift? Stir in a little zest. Plus, orange slices, segment, and pulpy pieces can brighten just about any recipe, from savory sauces to desserts.

Orange season is now in full swing (it runs through June), meaning there’s no better time to make the most of the sunny, sweet citrus.

Not sure where to start? Matt McLean, founder and CEO of Uncle Matt’s Organic, in Clermont, Fla., shares his orange expertise. In addition to choosing oranges at their peak ripeness, consider where they come from if you’re making juice, he says. “Florida oranges have a thinner peel and more juice per fruit because of Florida’s sub-tropical climate,” he explains. Thicker-skinned California oranges are ideal for eating out of hand because they are easier to peel. Use this guide to help you shop:

Hamlin Peak Season: November to January Characteristics: This pale varietal has a floral aroma and a high vitamin C content. Navel Peak Season: November to March Characteristics: The namesake “navel” makes this classic easy to identify.

Cara Cara Navel Peak Season: November to April Characteristics: Red-fleshed navels have a distinctive flavor profile and antioxidant composition because of the red pigments.

Moro, Sanguinello (Blood Oranges) Peak Season: December to February Characteristics: Tart, red-fleshed blood oranges are spectacular in recipes and as juice.

Heirloom varieties Peak Season: January to March Characteristics: “If you can get ’em, grab ’em,” says McLean, citing Florida Temple oranges as a sweet-tart option that’s great for juicing but can also be peeled like a tangerine.

Pineapple Peak Season: February to April Characteristics: Darker orange with a flavor somewhere between a Hamlin and a Valencia. Very seedy, but a great juice orange.

Valencia Peak Season: April to June Characteristics: First grown in California, the world’s most common orange variety is juicy and richly hued.

Must-try orange recipes:

Orange-Scented Meatballs with Sweet-and-Sour Sauce

Lentil Salad with Roasted Oranges and Radicchio

Orange-Chile Salsa Verde

Orange Wassail