Most people know oranges as round citrusy fruit that usually have a light to dark orange color – but the truth is that oranges can have a range of colors varying between green and orange depending on how ripe they are.
Can you eat green or unripe oranges? Ripe oranges have a predominately orange color but some of them can also develop green patches. Usually, fully unripe oranges can still be eaten, although they will provide a very sour and even lightly bitter flavor.
Read below to learn more about green, unripe oranges, what to look out for, and more!
What are Green Oranges
Green oranges are typically referred to as unripe oranges. Oranges are sold when they are fully ripened because that is when they provide the most flavor and health benefits.
Let’s first go over the ripening process of oranges and other fruit before we go into the characteristics of green oranges.
Most fruit start off as green. But as they ripen, they begin to change in color, texture, and flavor. This happens due to internal chemical changes that convert acids and complex carbohydrates into simpler sugars.
The ripening process depends on the type of fruit, its genetics, environmental factor, and even temperature.
Temperature is an important point to keep in mind and is a big part of why some fully ripened green oranges exist. That’s right, some oranges can develop green patches due to high temperatures. Oranges turn partially green to protect themselves from sunburn!
These oranges will taste just like regular oranges but will look like unripe oranges. But this phenomenon is rare, especially if the oranges are sourced from a farm that uses modern agricultural best practices.
Also, store-bought and fully ripe oranges will rarely turn green. Sure, they might become discolored or dull, but that is due to oxidization and is common with fruits that are compromised by bacteria.
Let’s take a look at the characteristics of green oranges.
Green Oranges – Important Characteristics
Here are the important features of green oranges:
Green oranges are mostly sour. This is because unripe fruit usually has high levels of acid that cause the fruit to become hyper-tangy and sometimes even unbearably sour. Green oranges can also be bitter but this will usually depend on how mature the fruit is.
Small and immature oranges will present with either highly sour or highly bitter flavors. There is very little use of green oranges when it comes to their flavor because there are much better alternatives that offer a more favorable sour flavor.
Green oranges have a hard to mildly firm texture. Again, the exact texture of the fruit corresponds to how ripe it is. The riper the fruit, the softer it will be!
In the case of green oranges, though, this fruit will almost always be firm. This means that it will take more than just your fingers to peel them! Ripe oranges can easily be peeled by burrowing your thumb at the top of the fruit and then peeling the skin off – but with green oranges, you might have to take out a sharp knife.
When you cut a green orange in half, you will notice more tightly packed segments than a regular orange. These segments will be way tougher and may even be difficult to chew as well. If you have a particularly unripe orange then it may even be impossible to fully chew and break down the pulp using your teeth.
Green oranges have very little use in the culinary world and are usually eaten on their own. Please keep in mind that green oranges are not the norm which is why they are seldom used in any way.
Most people who do eat green oranges may become accustomed to it.
These oranges are surely an acquired taste but if you want the best out of oranges, then we recommend that you stick with a regular and ripe orange!
Is it Safe to Eat Green Oranges?
Green oranges are safe to eat but this doesn’t mean that you should replace them with regular oranges. Studies show that while occasionally eating green oranges is fine, eating too much can cause digestive issues.
As we explained above, green oranges are packed with complex carbohydrates and compounds that can take a toll on your digestive system.
This means that while you might be able to eventually digest unripe oranges, they are likely to cause various digestive problems before they pass through your body.
Some negative effects include abdominal cramping, nausea, diarrhea, and even excessive burping. These effects are not long-term and are usually resolved within 12-24 hours. Once your body breaks down the fruit in your stomach, you should start to feel better.
If you don’t feel better or if you notice that your symptoms are worse, then we highly recommend that you talk to your health provider to rule out any serious digestive issues.
Another important point to keep in mind is that green oranges also don’t have an impressive nutritional profile compared to regular oranges. For example, green oranges are particularly low in vitamin C which is found in abundance in ripe oranges.
So, by eating green oranges, you will not just end up with digestive issues, but you will also not get the numerous health benefits associated with regular oranges.
Green Oranges – Looking out for Signs of Spoilage
Green doesn’t always indicate ripeness. As we have discussed above, even ripe oranges can turn green or produce patches of green to protect the fruit from sunburn. This happens due to a natural compound called chlorophyll, which the plant produces in excess to create a protective barrier.
But there are also other reasons why oranges can take on a green color! For example, when oranges grow mold, they can appear as thin patches that lay flat on the skin of the fruit.
Here are the top signs to look out for before eating a partially green orange:
Mold growth can also appear as green patches which can make it difficult to detect spoilage when you are eating green oranges. Luckily there are a few common signs that can help you avoid spoiled oranges.
First, carefully inspect the surface of the orange and look for raised areas. When mold grows, the spores usually clump up and create a raised surface which makes it easier to detect. But in some cases, they can also lay flat.
This is why you should rub the surface of the orange with your thumb and then check for any residue on your fingers. Mold can rub off easily which makes this technique particularly useful when detecting spoilage in green oranges.
Overly Bitter or Foul Flavor
Green oranges are usually bitter but if you notice an overly bitter flavor that makes it difficult or impossible to eat green oranges then this could mean that they are either too unripe or have spoiled.
As a general rule of thumb, if you get a foul flavor then this is likely due to spoilage. Green oranges are very sour and mildly bitter – but they will never have a foul flavor unless they go bad!
If you tasted a spoiled green orange then we recommend that you spit it out and rinse your mouth to avoid getting sick.
Varying Texture with Green Patches
Green patches can appear on regular oranges but this isn’t always caused by an excess production of chlorophyll. If you notice a soft or mushy texture over green patches then this likely means that the oranges have gone bad.
You can also smell the area to confirm! Spoiled oranges give off a rotten or sulfuric odor that is fairly easy to detect – but bad odor may not always be present with a soft texture which is why we recommend that you avoid green oranges even if they show just one sign of spoilage.
Green oranges are not usually enjoyed because they can be very sour and have less nutritional value compared to regular oranges. But some people do enjoy eating them occasionally!
Now that you know if you can eat green or unripe oranges, here are some related questions:
Can Unripe Oranges Ripen in the Fridge?
No, once the oranges are harvested, they can never ripen naturally. They usually only ripen when they are left to mature on the tree.
So, you will not be able to ripen them if you store them in the fridge. The only way to ripen them would be if you were to expose them to ethylene gas.
Do Green or Unripe Oranges Have a Longer Shelf Life Compared to Regular Oranges?
Green oranges don’t have a longer shelf life than regular oranges! They can spoil faster than regular oranges due to their high acidity. The acids in green oranges can break down the fruit from within which also makes it susceptible to spoilage.
You should always refrigerate green oranges and try to consume them within 3-4 days for the best experience.