Why Aren’t the Oranges in Belize Orange?

Green oranges in Ambergris Caye Belize

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a kitchen gadget person. I LOVE kitchen gadgets!!

Pierogi press?

Got it!

Bread maker?
Got it!

Little tool to scoop out the insides of strawberries?
Got it!

The one thing I don’t have though is… a juicer!

I used to have one. One of those giant contraptions where you can put the whole fruit or veggie in, and it grinds it into smithereens.  But, it was a huge pain to clean. So, it went to a new home in a garage sale, probably about 15 years ago.

I’ve been sans juicer ever since.

Cuisinart Citrus JuicerSo, when I was checking out the kitchen in our unit we’re staying in, in Belize, I was SUPER-excited to see a cute little Cuisinart juicer on the counter! Now, as you can see, this isn’t one of those “juice everything” units. It’s specifically for citrus. And, that’s A-OK with me, because 90% of the time orange juice is my juice of choice. To be honest, the other juicer was kind of a pain, because you had to peel the oranges first.

Needless to say, I was eager to get some oranges and enjoy fresh-squeezed OJ each morning of my stay!

We headed into San Pedro and stopped at a little roadside produce market. They had lots of variety! Tomatoes. Pineapples. Limes. Kiwis. But… I didn’t see any oranges!

I finally had to ask the gal, and she pointed at the section of the table I was standing right next to, and said, “They’re right there.” as if I was a little strange for not seeing them.

I looked where she was pointing, and instead of a mound of bright, orange citrus sat green balls of fruit. Now, I’m not talking “not ready to be picked” green… but, these fruit were clearly very ripe. But, there was not even a tinge of orange… until you cut one open!

Green oranges in Ambergris Caye Belize

So, what’s up with that? Why are the oranges in Belize green?

I did a little investigating, and here’s what I found…

 First, oranges weren’t named ‘orange’ because of their bright, sunny color! Actually, the use of the word ‘orange’ as a color wasn’t recorded until three hundred years AFTER the fruit appeared in Europe. It’s thought that oranges get their name from the Sanskrit word for fragrant – naranja.

So, my citrusy delights weren’t named for their color, but for their bright, delicious smell. OK, but why are they orange, in the States, but green in Belize?

Apparently, it has to do with temperature and chlorophyll!

In warm, sunny countries, like Belize, the green doesn’t mean the oranges aren’t ripe, but rather all that wonderful sunshine is allowing the chlorophyll to stay in the skin of the orange. When oranges turn orange, it means the chlorophyll has died off, and in this often means those brightly colored oranges we get in our giant food markets in the US are actually heading toward rot.

Sadly, we Americans often care more about how something looks, rather than how it tastes. We’re all about the pretty! So, this means orange producers often force that bright orange color. In addition to those tricky red net bags, that make the fruit look orange in the store, but when you get home and take them out of the bag they’re not so orange, orange producers often use:

  • Ethylene gas – Exposing the fruit to ethylene breaks down the chlorophyll artificially, getting rid of that pesky, green color.
  • Cold – Another way to kill off the chlorophyll (and something not naturally experienced in Belize) is shocking the fruit with cold.
  • Wax coating – A wax coating can also kill off the chlorophyll, as well as protect from bruising and moisture loss — letting the producers extend the shelf life of their oranges.
  • Dye – Yup, some orange producers actually dip their oranges in dye, to give them that orange color. Talk about false advertising!

So, next time you’re in a warm and wonderful country, like Belize, don’t turn your nose up at those green oranges! I’ll tell you, the ones I had not only were SUPER cheap (5 for 50 cents US!!), but they were also super juicy and super sweet!!


PS – That Cuisinart citrus juicer was SLICK! I now know what I want for Christmas!

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