Oranges are one of the most popular fruits around the world. They are an excellent source of vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants. However, sometimes an orange may develop soft spots on its skin, which can make people wonder if it’s still safe to eat.
What Causes Soft Spots on Oranges
There are a few common causes of soft spots on oranges:
- Bruising – If an orange gets bumped or dropped, it can cause bruising under the skin which leads to soft spots.
- Decay – As an orange ages and starts to go bad, it will develop moldy, soft areas on the skin.
- Cold damage – If an orange is stored in cold temperatures below 50°F, its skin can develop chill injury which causes pitting and soft spots.
- Oleocellosis – This is a physiological disorder caused by rapid changes in temperature. It creates sunken, softened areas on the orange peel.
Soft spots on an orange are often an indication that part of the fruit is starting to go bad. However, a soft spot doesn’t necessarily mean the entire orange is inedible.
Is it Safe to Eat an Orange with a Soft Spot?
Whether or not an orange with a soft spot can be safely eaten depends on the extent and cause of the soft spot. Here are some general guidelines:
- Small, localized soft spot – If the spot is minor and localized to one area of the orange, you can typically cut around it and eat the rest of the fruit. The soft spot is often just surface damage.
- Large or spreading soft spot – Large soft areas, especially if they seem moldy or rotten, are a sign the orange should be discarded. The decay will likely have spread deeper into the fruit.
- Whole orange is very soft – An orange that is mushy or very soft throughout should not be eaten raw. Toss the fruit.
- Bruising but peel looks OK – Lightly bruised oranges with intact skin can be peeled and eaten as long as the inner flesh isn’t very soft or discolored.
In general, if the soft spot is minor and localized, peeling the orange removes the damaged part. But if soft spots are widespread or penetrating deep into the fruit, it’s safest to discard the orange.
What Does a Soft Spot on an Orange Look and Feel Like?
Here are some ways to identify soft spots on oranges:
- Appearance – Soft spots can look like indented, sunken areas on the peel. They may be light brown or grayish in color. Decaying spots may have mold-like growth.
- Texture – Pressing gently on a soft spot will feel mushy or spongy compared to the surrounding firm peel. Healthy oranges feel firm all over.
- Odor – As oranges start to go bad, soft spots will smell musty or unpleasant. A fermented odor is a sign of advanced decay.
Soft spots on oranges are often accompanied by additional signs of spoilage like mold growth, a dried-out stem, or very lightweight fruit. Trust your senses of sight, smell, and touch to determine if an orange’s soft spot seems safe to eat around.
What Are the Health Risks of Eating a Soft Orange?
Eating damaged, decaying, or moldy sections of an orange does come with some health risks:
- Foodborne illness – Decomposing oranges may harbor pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella or E. coli that can cause food poisoning if eaten.
- Digestive issues – The fermented flesh of a rotten orange can irritate the digestive tract, causing nausea, cramps, or diarrhea.
- Mold exposure – Some molds that grow on spoiled oranges produce mycotoxins that can cause allergic reactions or neurological effects if ingested.
In healthy individuals, these risks are relatively low if you just eat around a small soft spot. But people with compromised immunity should be especially careful and when in doubt, throw it out.
How to Prevent Soft Spots on Oranges
You can help reduce the chances of oranges developing soft spots by:
- Choosing unbruised, undamaged fruit at the store.
- Handling oranges gently to prevent new bruises.
- Storing oranges properly in the fridge. Ideal storage temperature is 37-48°F.
- Eating oranges soon after purchase and within any recommended use-by date.
- Keeping oranges away from extreme shifts in temperature.
- Not storing oranges near ethylene-producing fruits like apples which can accelerate ripening.
With proper handling and storage, fresh oranges will last 2-3 weeks in the fridge. But regardless of care, oranges don’t last forever and will eventually show signs of spoilage.
What Else Can You Do With a Soft Orange?
If an orange has extensive soft spots, it’s best not to eat it raw. But you aren’t limited to throwing it away. Some other options for using up a soft orange include:
- Juice it – Blend up the entire orange to make fresh juice. The heat from juicing helps destroy any bacteria.
- Cook with it – Use spoiled oranges in baked goods like muffins, cakes, or quick breads.
- Make orange zest – If the peel is intact, zest the skin before discarding the fruit.
- Create orange vinegar – Simmer peels and pulp in vinegar to impart flavor.
- Use for household purposes – Soft oranges can be used to naturally scent homes or as cut up air fresheners.
- Throw it in the compost – Orange peels and pulp decompose well in compost piles.
With some creativity, you can put even overripe oranges to good use rather than sending them straight to the trash.
Key Takeaways on Eating Oranges with Soft Spots
Here are some key tips to remember about soft spots on oranges:
- Small, localized soft spots can often be safely cut away allowing the rest of the orange to be eaten.
- Widespread softness or decay requires the whole orange be discarded.
- Pressing, smelling, and inspecting soft spots helps determine if they can be eaten around.
- Spoiled oranges should not be eaten raw but can be used in cooked goods or for other purposes.
- Proper storage and handling helps prevent soft spots and extend an orange’s shelf life.
While the occasional soft spot doesn’t make an entire orange inedible, it’s always best to err on the side of caution. Listen to your senses, examine soft spots closely, and throw out any oranges that seem potentially harmful.
The Bottom Line
Finding a small soft spot on an orange doesn’t necessarily mean you have to throw the entire fruit away. Carefully inspecting soft spots and cutting around localized decay allows many slightly spoiled oranges to still be safely eaten and enjoyed. However, widespread softness, mold, or foul odors are signs that an orange should be discarded and not consumed raw. With sound judgment, even a fruit with minor defects can provide you with valuable nutrition and flavor.
|Soft Spot Size||Actions|
|Small, localized||Cut away soft spot and eat remainder of orange|
|Large, spreading||Discard whole orange|
|Entire orange is soft||Toss in compost or use for non-food purposes|