Orange tree owners from Valley Center and Escondido took to social media to vent about their fruit splitting.
“What caused the spitting this year?” questioned one woman from Escondido on February 11. “My other citrus trees are not getting eaten but are having the splitting issue.” She then posted a photo of a blood orange with a split about three inches long.
One orchard owner from Valley Center blamed the heavy rainfall for the orange splitting.
“It’s basically engorged with extra fluid from all the extra water,” she commented. “That happens if you forget to water and then you water a lot to try and make up for it.”
“For me it’s really weird that they split because ‘maybe the trees sucked up so much water,'” Eli from Fallbrook said. “It’s hard for me to believe that that happened.”
For over 20 years, Eli and his family have been growing produce at their Fallbrook farms (about 24 miles northwest of Valley Center) and selling at local farmers markets. I spoke to Eli at the City Heights Farmers Market on February 16.
“The splitting could be caused by the nitrogen levels in the soil,” he said.
Bertha was selling vegetables and fruits including navel oranges, blood oranges, tangerines and lemons — behind Eli’s booth. “The splitting is because of all our rain,” she said.
Leslie Fierro from Fallbrook was selling freshly squeezed orange juice for $3-$5 a glass next to Eli.
“I’ve seen the splitting,” she said. “Everyone’s has their own methods of growing oranges and it could be the sprays or chemicals they use to protect their crops or what’s in their compost — you don’t know 100 percent what’s in there.”
Per a 2001 publication called Navel Orange Split published by the Agriculture and Natural Resources at UC Davis: “Splits probably occur when water and sugar are transported from the roots of the tree to the ripening fruit, and the rind is unable to expand quickly enough to accommodate the added volume. The rind bursts open under the pressure …. Splitting [also] appears to be most closely related to extreme fluctuations in temperature, humidity, soil moisture, and possibly fertilizer levels, and the disorder is probably caused by a combination of these factors rather than by a single cause.”
Fierro says that navel oranges are in season and the skins thicker and easy to peel. The Valencia oranges are harder to peel and likely to make a mess when peeling because of their thin skin.
She cut a couple slices and asked me to try them.
“The Valencia orange tasted super-sweet and the navel orange tasted sweet with a bit of sourness,” I said.
“…. and our blood oranges are right in the middle,” she continued.
Fierro squeezes Valencia oranges picked from Eli’s trees.
“I prefer to take these ugly Valencia oranges because even though they are ugly, they are the sweetest,” she said. “Eli’s oranges are organic and he doesn’t have anything that’s altered in his produce — that’s why some are different shapes they don’t have the wax to protect them (with black marks). When they are chemically processed, the [Valencia] oranges look beautiful, but on the inside, the quality and the taste is not as good.”