My neighbor cut his orange tree down. Will the oranges ripen still?
Midge from Palm Harbor, FL
The short answer is no. Here is why. First off, it's important to note that the terms "ripe" and "mature" are usually used synonymously, but they actually mean different things. A mature fruit is one that has completed its growth phase. This will also ensure that it completes its ripening phase (reaches optimal quality for consumption), because a fruit cannot ripen until it reaches maturity. Ripening is the term used to describe the changes that occur within the fruit from the time it reaches maturity to the beginning of decay. These changes usually involve starches converting to sugars, a decrease in acids and a softening and change in the fruit's color.
Technically speaking, citrus fruits do not go through a ripening process in the sense that they get "tree ripe." Some fruits (like cherries) physically mature and then continue to ripen on the tree. Other fruits (like pears) are picked when mature, but before they ripen. They then continue to ripen off the tree. Citrus fruits like oranges pass from immaturity, to maturity to over-maturity while still on the tree. Once they are separated from the tree, that's it. They will not increase in sweetness or continue to "ripen." The only way change that may happen after being picked is that they will eventually start to decay.
Whatever stage of maturity the oranges were in when your neighbor cut down the tree is where they will remain until they start to decline. With oranges, color cannot be used as an indicator of ripeness because sometimes the rinds turn orange long before the oranges are ready to eat. Tasting them is the only way to know whether or not they are ready to eating. Try one and find out!
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