Origin of Oranges
Oranges are known to have originated from parts of South East Asia, such as China and Assam in India, where oranges were cultivated since 2500 BC. For thousands of years, oranges (sour variety) were relished only by the people in South East Asia, while people in the Middle East, Greece, Italy, and other parts of the world were unaware of this luscious fruit.
History of Oranges
By the 1st century AD, the Romans who were always hunting for exotic food, managed to introduce oranges to Rome, by bringing juvenile orange trees through sea voyages all the way from India. However, with the fall of Rome in the 5th century AD, both culturing and importing of oranges disappeared for centuries together. Besides Rome, even North Africa was introduced to oranges in the 1st century AD. At the time of their conquest of Spain in the 8th century, the native Muslims from North Africa took along oranges to Spain, and thus the fruit was introduced to Spain. During
Queen Victoria's reign, oranges were given as presents in England!
From then onwards, oranges were introduced to many other regions in various ways. Christopher Columbus is credited with the carrying of orange seeds in 1493, across the Atlantic Ocean, all the way from Spain's Canary Islands to Haiti, where he planted orange orchards. Panama and Mexico were introduced to oranges in 1516 and 1518 respectively. Around the same time, Brazil also started cultivating orange trees. Mostly, the sour variety was cultivated, however, the number of regions which had access to the sweet variety is still unknown. The sweet variety was introduced to Eastern Europe in the 16th century.
When did Oranges Come to the West?
It was William Wolfskill, who in 1841, planted orange trees in his grape pergola. He happened to be the first person to plant an orange tree in Los Angeles, US. The idea of selling oranges was so strange in the U.S., that many people laughed at his efforts. However, William continued to grow his orange trees. He sold the fruit to gold rush miners, and on the completion of the transcontinental railroad, he managed to transport the oranges to St Louis by 1877.
Oranges are available throughout the year (peak time-winter), and grow on evergreen trees, which are about 30 feet high and 20 feet wide. The flowers of the orange are white and blossom in spring, however, the fruits appear only by fall or winter. They are round or oval in shape, and vary from orange to red/pinkish orange. Orange is a kind of berry, which consists of carpels or sections, that can be easily separated. Seeds (also called 'pips') may or may not be present in the carpels. The fruit is covered externally by a leathery skin covering called the 'peel', which is embedded with several oil glands. Oranges do not ripen after they are picked.
What are the Different Varieties of Oranges?
One interesting fact about oranges is that there are 600 types of them, which are classified into three broad classes; sweet, bitter/sour, and loose-skinned.
- Sweet Variety(Citrus sinensis): This variety is used for eating fresh, making juices, and also used in tarts, salads, etc. Blood Oranges, Navel Oranges, and Valencia Oranges are common sweet orange varieties. Blood Oranges are red in color due to the anthocyanin pigment present in them. Navel Oranges are large and mostly seedless, easy to peel and separate, while Valencia Orange variety features none to six seeds in the carpels. Valencia variety is popular in the U.S., as about 50% of Florida's orange crop is of this variety.
- Sour Variety(Citrus aurantium): This variety is bitter to taste, and is seldom eaten fresh. Cultivation of this variety is done largely in South Africa for making marmalade. However, these fruits are also exported to England and Scotland for conversion to marmalade. The juice of this fruit is used as a flavoring agent to cook fish, and in parts of Egypt, it has been used for wine-making. Bergamot orange is the prominent species of this sour variety.
- Loose-skinned Variety(Citrus reticulata): This variety is quite popular in India, and can range in taste from sweet to tart. These oranges are part of the Mandarin family. Mandarin oranges are not really oranges, however, they come under the same genus. These are smaller in size with easily peeling skin. Clementine Orange is a hybrid of this variety, which is deep orange in color, and mostly seedless. Tangerine is also a variety of Mandarin Orange, and is pebbly-skinned and heavy for its size.
Brazil is the largest producer of oranges in the world, with Florida in the U.S. being the second-largest. About half of the world's orange juice and about 80% of the world's orange concentrate comes from Brazil. The other orange producing states in the U.S. are Texas, Arizona, and California. However, the oranges grown in Florida are three times the amount grown in California. The Blood Orange variety is grown in Italy, Clementine Orange is grown in Morocco, and the Jaffa variety is grown in Israel.
What are the Health Benefits of Oranges?
Oranges are rich in vitamin C, which is required by the human body. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, which boosts the body's immune system, body's iron absorption capacity, reduces the risk of heart diseases, and facilitates healing of wounds. Deficiency of vitamin C can lead to scurvy (bleeding of the gums). Since vitamin C is not produced by the body, its supply has to be fed into the body on a regular basis. Besides vitamin C, oranges are also rich in fiber, which helps increase the level of good cholesterol in the blood, regulates the blood sugar levels, and helps in preventing colon cancer. Oranges also contain calcium, potassium, magnesium, and Vitamin B6.
What are the Different Uses of an Orange?
An interesting fact about oranges is its uses. It has various uses, and is used for consumption as well as other commercial purposes.
- Orange Juice: Orange juice is obtained after squeezing or pressing the orange. Orange juice is available in three forms; a frozen concentrate (has to be diluted with water), a reconstituted liquid which is ready to drink (the concentrate is diluted before sale), or the non-concentrated juice. Freshly squeezed orange juice is healthy, energizing, and sweeter as compared to lemon juice. Orange juice, if poured over other fruits prevents them from turning brown.
- Orange Fruit: Orange is a fruit that is widely eaten across the globe. After peeling the orange, the inner fleshy and juicy portion is relished just as it is. Orange is also cut into pieces, and added to fruit salads and fruit bowls. The fruit is also added to various desserts and recipes.
- Orange Peels: Orange peels can be grated with the help of a special grater called Zester, which scrapes only the thin outer layer of the orange peel and not the pith beneath (light-colored). The 'orange zest' is used as dried seasoning, flavoring agent for gravies, desserts, meat dishes, etc. Besides food, dried orange peels find their use in natural air fresheners. Dried orange peels added to boiling water, along with cinnamon sticks, flower petals, and lemon peels in a room, leave the room with a fragrant odor. Another important part of the peel that is widely used, is the oil present in it. It acts as an effective insect repellent, and is also used in the production of furniture polishes.
- To select a good orange, check for a blemish-free orange, which is brightly colored and heavy in weight.
- Oranges can be stored at room temperatures for 2-3 days comfortably. If refrigerated, they can be stored for up to 14 days.
- They are easy to transport because of their individual thick protective peels.
- Remember not to have orange juice with an empty stomach, because the citric acid present in the juice will cause acidity by stimulating the gastrointestinal secretions.
- Use straw while drinking orange juice, because the acids in the juice can cause the enamel of the tooth to erode. Therefore, the lesser contact the juice makes with the teeth, the better.