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Oranges: Valencia »« Nectarines

Oranges Navel

Citrus sinensis


Description

Is the fruit named after the colour, or is the colour named after the fruit? Whichever it is, the orange is a favourite fruit of many people for its multiple uses.

The name ‘orange’ probably comes from the Sanskrit naranga, meaning ‘fragrant’. Break open an orange and you can see why as the scent from the oils hits your nose. The Navel orange is so-named for the little button at the bottom of the fruit, which resembles a human navel, and is actually a second fruit. These oranges are better for eating than juicing, as they peel easily and are mostly seedless.

Oranges are typically divided into two groups: bitter and sweet. The bitter orange, Citrus aurantium, includes varieties such as the Seville, and is commonly used for making marmalade. The sweet orange, Citrus sinensis, is the type you’d normally buy for cooking and eating, and includes the Navel and Valencia as well as the blood orange.

The main thing oranges are known for is being high in vitamin C, which helps fight free radicals and protect cells from damage. They’re actually not as high in the vitamin as some other fruits, such as kiwifruit, but one orange will still give you all the vitamin C you need for a day, plus a little bit more. Oranges are also a good source of vitamin A, fibre, thiamine, folate, potassium, and even contain a small amount of protein.

Choose oranges that feel heavy, that have tight skin, and give a little bit to pressure, but are free from bruising, soft spots, or shrivelling. Store them at room temperature for about three days, or for two weeks in the fridge in a loosely sealed plastic bag.

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History

Oranges, like all citrus, probably originated in South-East Asia, and were being cultivated in China in around 2500BC. They made it to the Middle East at some time around the 9th century AD, and are recorded as growing in the Mediterranean island of Sicily in 1002.

The bitter Seville orange was grown in 12th century Spain by the Moors, who were occupying the country, and in 1290 a shipment of the oranges was made to Portsmouth in Britain. Sweet oranges were first seen in 1330 in India, and in 1421 were first planted at the French royal chateau Versailles.

Oranges were introduced to the Caribbean by Christopher Columbus, and were brought to North America by later Spanish explorers and missionaries. Florida and California are still known for their orange cultivation. However, it wasn’t until the 20th century that oranges were able to reach mass market – they were very expensive and reserved for special treats until technology made it easier to transport and process them.

Uses

Oranges are often used for their zest and juice. When grating orange zest, be careful not to get any of the white pith as it’s very bitter.

Orange can substitute for lemon in a number of different recipes if you feel like a change. Next time you cook scallops, pan fry them in butter and as soon as they’re cooked, deglaze the pan with orange juice and pour over the scallops.

Orange goes well in a beetroot salad – roast beetroot with rosemary and red onion, and when cooked squeeze over some orange juice and add crumbled feta.

Orange and rosemary are a classic combination to go with chicken, and are fantastic flavouring for stuffing and gravy.

Facts

Oranges are the largest citrus crop in the world, with Brazil the top producer.

If left on the tree for too long, oranges can turn green again. They’ll still taste fine; the orange is just re-absorbing chlorophyll.

The process for making frozen orange juice concentrate was only developed in 1945.

Marmalade, so the story goes, was invented by accident. In 18th century Scotland, a Spanish ship carrying Seville oranges was moored in Dundee harbour. A local man bought some, but they turned out to be too bitter to eat, so his wife turned them into a type of jam.



Oranges: Valencia »« Nectarines

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