Oranges turn orange when temperatures get colder while the fruit is still on the tree. In the tropics, where the cold is lacking oranges are always green. Sometimes oranges will have green colouring on their skin or russeting; neither affects their flavour or interior qualities. Oranges will not ripen any further in colour or flavour after being picked.
There are sweet oranges and bitter oranges. The sweet are used for juice and eating out of hand; the bitter are used for cooking and for flavour extracts.
California oranges generally have thicker skins than Florida oranges. Thick-skinned oranges grow better in drier climates like California; thin-skinned ones grow better in hot, humid climates like Florida. Oranges that are very easy to peel, such as Clementine Oranges, are referred to as having “zipper skin.”
Since the 1980s, Brazil has been the largest orange producer in the world. Production there centres on the state of São Paulo.
The sections of an orange are called “carpels.” The juice-filled tubes inside each section are actually specialized hair cells.
The rind of the skin is called “flavedo”; the white pith, “albedo.”
Wash the orange thoroughly to remove any wax coating or pesticides. Before juicing or sectioning for cooking, run the orange along the side of a grater or other implement to zest it. If the recipe doesn’t call for zest, throw the zest into a small plastic container and freeze for future use. It’s a real luxury to have the zest on hand like that for immediate use, and it’s a luxury that doesn’t take any time or money to have.
To remove the peel in large strips, use a vegetable peeler. When zesting or stripping off the peel for use, don’t get any of the bitter white pith just beneath the peel.
Before juicing, roll on the counter pressing down, or zap in microwave for 2 to 3 seconds.
To section an orange, use a paring knife. Cut a thin slice off the top and bottom of the orange, then use the paring knife to cut off the sides, getting both the peel and the white pith. Then insert the paring knife into the centre of the orange along the side of one membrane, and cut up and down along that membrane. Repeat for all the other membranes, working your way around the orange, and then use the knife to gently pry the sections loose.
Oranges have about 50 to 55 mg of Vitamin C per 100g, depending on what source you check with (which also depends on the variety of orange used for testing, how long they were stored first, etc.)
1 medium orange = 1/3 cup juice = 6 to 8 tablespoons of juice
1 medium orange = 1 1/2 tablespoons of grated rind
1 medium orange = 10 to 12 sections = 1/2 cup sections
1 pound (450g) oranges = 3 medium or 2 large = 1 1/2 cups sections = 4 to 5 tablespoons grated rind = just shy of 1 cup (8 oz / 250 ml) of juice
Don’t store in plastic bags or plastic wrap, as the plastic will trap moisture and mould may grow. Store in fridge for up to two weeks. Or, freeze for use later in making marmalade. To do this, wash them, then pop them whole into a freezer bag, and freeze. Thaw the oranges first before beginning your Marmalade recipe. To compensate for any pectin that might have been destroyed during freezing, add to your recipe 1 extra orange per pound (450g) that the recipe calls for.
Oranges probably originated in India or other parts of South-East Asia, such as Vietnam.
The Romans were the first to plant Orange trees in Europe, starting just after the 1st century AD. They were cultivated primarily in southern Italy, but some gardeners grew them as far north as Rome. The cultivation and importation of Oranges continued until the Lombard invasion of 568 to 571. The invasion and the fighting up and down Italy completely disrupted both cultivation and the trade routes from the east where Oranges were being imported from.
Orange trees didn’t reappear on European soil until reintroduced by the Arabs who had conquered parts of Spain, starting in 711. They ripped out vineyards that had been in place for centuries, and replaced them with Orange trees. After being conquered by Islamic forces, the inhabitants of many of the countries around the eastern and southern Mediterranean found themselves forbidden to drink alcohol, so they no longer had use for extensive grape production. The conquerors converted Egypt from a land once famous for its vineyards and wines to a land growing lemons and Oranges instead.
Oranges reappeared in Southern Italy by the 1400s.
Louis XIV had an “Orangerie” built at Versailles. He held many parties there. Royal Courts all over Europe copied him and built their own Orangeries.
Christopher Columbus carried citrus seeds on his second voyage in 1493. The seeds were for oranges, lemons and citrons. Later, a Spanish law said that every sailor had to bring 100 citrus seeds with him to the New World. Ponce de Leon in 1513 told his men to plant seeds wherever they landed in Florida. (Another version has the citrus seeds not being planted in Florida until 1565.)
It was Navel Oranges that got California into the orange business.
The word “Orange” comes from a Sanskrit word, “naranga” or “na rangi”, meaning “fragrant”.
The German name “Pomeranze” comes from a contraction of the Latin “pomum aurantium” (golden apple.)
Brown, Ian. Ian Brown tries to give out oranges: A somewhat sad but true holiday tale. Toronto: The Globe and Mail. 23 December 2010.