Oranges are round citrus fruits ranging in diameter from about 2 to 3 inches/5 to 7% cm with ﬁnely texturized skins that are, of course, orange in color, just like their pulpy ﬂesh. They are undoubtedly one of the most popular fruits in the world. Oranges are classiﬁed into two general categories—sweet and bitter—with the former being most commonly consumed. Popular varieties of the sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) include Valencia, navel, and Jaffa oranges, as well as the blood orange, a hybrid species that is smaller in size, more aromatic in ﬂavor, and has red hues running throughout its ﬂesh. Bitter oranges (Citrus aurantium) are used to make jam or marmalade, and their zest serves as the ﬂavoring for liqueurs such as Grand Marnier and Cointreau.
History of Orange
The ﬁrst known reference to oranges is found in the second book of the traditional text The Five Classics, which appeared in China in 500 B.C.E. Oranges were ﬁrst cultivated in the Middle East around the ninth century. During the ﬁfteenth century, sweet oranges were introduced to Europe by various explorers and traders during their travels to the Middle East and Asia.
However, it was the Spanish explorers who were responsible for transporting the orange to Florida in the sixteenth century. In the eighteenth century, Spanish missionaries brought the fruit to California for cultivation as well.
The modern-day orange was developed from varieties native to southern China and Southeast Asia. In the United States, oranges are the leading fruit crop. Other large world producers of oranges are Mexico, Brazil, Spain, Israel, and China.
Nutritional Highlights for Orange
Oranges are an excellent source of ﬂavonoids and vitamin C—one orange (131 grams) supplies nearly 100 percent of the recommended dietary intake of vitamin C. They are also a very good source of dietary ﬁber. In addition, they are a good source of B vitamins (including vitamins B 1, B 2, and B 6, folic acid, and pantothenic acid), carotenes, pectin and potassium. Health Benefits The combination of high vitamin C content and ﬂavonoids make oranges important wherever vitamin C is required to function, especially within the immune system, lens of the eye, adrenal glands, and reproductive organs and in the connective tissues of our body, such as the joints, gums, and ground substance; and in promoting overall good health. One of the most important ﬂavonoids in oranges is hesperidin. Hesperidin has been shown in animal studies to lower high blood pressure as well as cholesterol, and to have strong anti-inflammatory properties. The concentration of hesperidin is considerably higher in the inner peel and inner white pulp of the orange, rather than in its orange ﬂesh.
The consumption of oranges and orange juice has been shown to protect against cancer and help ﬁght viral infections. The pectin in oranges also possesses properties similar to that of grapefruit pectin in lowering cholesterol levels.
Note: Mandarin oranges, tangerines, and satsumas provide similar health beneﬁts as the orange.
How to Select and Store Orange
Choose oranges that are ﬁrm and heavy for their size (this indicates that they are full of juice). Lighter fruit has more skin and drier pulp, which results in less juice. For the juiciest, sweetest fruit, look for oranges with a sweet, clean fragrance. One should avoid oranges that are severely bruised, soft, mouldy, or puffy. Color should not be used as a factor in choosing an orange. Oranges that are green or brown may be as ripe and delicious as those of a solid orange color. Actually, the uniform orange color of non-organic oranges may be due to the injection of an artiﬁcial dye, Citrus Red No. 2 (this additive has no E number, so while it may be found in the U.K., it hasn’t been certiﬁed by E.U. safety tests).
Like other citrus, oranges can be stored at room temperature for about two weeks or loosely stored in the refrigerator. It is better not to store oranges wrapped, for wrapping leaves the fruit more susceptible to moisture and mould. Also, orange peel can be dried and stored in an airtight container and kept in a dry, cool environment, and orange juice can be squeezed into ice cube trays and frozen for later use.
Tips for Preparing Orange
Oranges should be sprayed with a solution of diluted
additive-free soap or commercial produce wash and then hand washed under cool running water. Oranges can be eaten as a snack—just peel and enjoy. Thin-skinned oranges can easily be peeled with your ﬁngers.
For easy peeling of the thicker-skinned varieties, ﬁrst cut a small section of the peel from the top of the orange. You can then either make four longitudinal cuts from top to bottom and peel away these sections of skin or, starting at the top, peel the orange in a spiral fashion.
If you wish to cut your orange instead, before cutting the orange in half horizontally through the center, wash the skin so that any dirt or bacteria residing on the surface will not be transferred to the fruit. Proceed to cut the sections into halves or thirds, depending upon your personal preference.
Oranges are often called for in recipes in the form of orange juice. As oranges produce more juice when warmer, always juice them when they are at room temperature, or, if you’ve just taken them out of the refrigerator, place them in a bowl of warm water for several minutes.
Rolling the orange under the palm of your hand on a ﬂat surface will also help extract more juice. The juice can then be extracted in a variety of ways. You can use either a juicer or a squeezer or squeeze it by hand. If you happen to have an allergy to any of the constituents in citrus peel, use extra caution when juicing oranges.
If your recipe calls for orange zest, make sure you use an orange that is organically grown, since most conventionally grown oranges have pesticide residues on their skin and may be artiﬁcially colored. After washing and drying the orange, use a zester, paring knife, or vegetable peeler to remove the zest, which is the orange part of the peel. Make sure not to remove too much of the peel, as the white pith underneath is bitter and should not be used. The zest can then be chopped ﬁnely or diced if necessary.
Quick Serving Ideas for Orange
- Eat oranges whole or in fruit salads, or juice them.
- Lightly saute onions and then deglaze the pan with orange juice. Use this liquid as a marinade and sauce for grilled tofu.
- Blend cooked carrots with orange juice, season with rosemary, and serve as a cold soup.
- Orange segments, fennel, and shaved Parmesan cheese make a delightfully refreshing salad.
- Gently simmer sweet potatoes, winter squash, and orange segments in orange juice. Before serving, sprinkle with walnuts.
- Freeze orange juice in ice cube trays. Once they are mostly frozen, gently blend in a food processor to create a frozen granita dessert.
Oranges are a common food allergen. When such an allergy is suspected, caution must be employed when eating citrus fruit; see “Tips for Preparing” above. For a description of common signs and symptoms of food allergies.
Oranges’ ﬂesh does not contain oxalates, although the peel contains high levels of oxalates, as do other citrus peels.
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Individuals with a history of calcium oxalate-containing kidney stones should limit their consumption of them though citrus peels should never be eaten in any signiﬁcant quantity. Citrus peels contain some beneﬁcial oils, but these oils can interfere with some body functions. For example, citrus peels contain a compound known as citral that antagonizes some of the effects of vitamin A.
Since oranges are among the foods on which pesticide residues have been most frequently found, we highly recommend selecting organically grown oranges.