Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Students, Refugees Harvest Sour Oranges

Following the success of the LEAF Team’s first calamondin lime harvest on March 8, the momentum continues with another Seville (sour) orange harvest, April 5that yielded 600 pounds. (LEAF: Linking Edible Arizona Forests)

This time the team is focusing its efforts on another valuable, yet misunderstood citrus food resource – Seville oranges, known to many as “sour oranges.” 

Seville oranges, although sour in taste, possess many cultural values for refugee communities within Tucson. In fact, for much of the Arabic speaking world this“narenge” is used even more frequently than lemons. During a food preservation demonstration planned for April 17, UN refugees will be sharing some of their culinary knowledge about these fruit incorrectly considered inedible by many locals.

Glenn Wright, a citrus expert and associate professor at the University of Arizona’s Agriculture Center in Yuma, shared some valuable information on harvesting techniques:

·         When picking citrus by hand, avoid “plugging,” or ripping of the fruit’s outer rind, as much as possible. Especially for calamondin limes, this will extend the shelf life and quality of the fruit well beyond the harvest date.

·         When using a clipper, trim as close to the stem as possible. If there is concern about bacterial transmission between trees, using a 5% bleach dip to sanitize clippers is recommended.

·         Get to know your trees. Yellowing leaves or bumpy bark can indicate nutrient deficiencies or viruses, which can result in lower quality fruit.

·         Harvesting technique decisions should always be made on a tree-to-tree basis. Some older trees may require handling with care, and some fruit are more delicate that others. For instance, the rinds of calamondin limes are soft, making them prone to rupture, while Seville oranges tend to be hardier in harvesting and storage.

·         For juicing purposes, don’t be afraid to pick the ugly fruit. Fruit not traditionally beautiful can be desirable for what they provide in their juice.

For more information about the harvests, or to get involved, contact citrus intern Ty Trainer at ttrainer@email.arizona.eduMelanie Lenart, project manager for LEAF on the UA Campus, at, or Barbara Eiswerth, director of Iskashitaa Refugee Network, at

Further, the harvesting of these oranges has provided ample opportunity for research and an expansion of our awareness of the conditions that affect the fruit’s quality and longevity.

By Ty Trainer, LEAF Intern

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