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Chocolate Navel Oranges
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Navel Chocolate oranges are round to oval in shape with a distinct “navel” or circular hole on the blossom stem end. The thin rind is covered in many oil glands creating a smooth, pebbled texture and ripens from green to variegated hues of green, brown, and orange when mature. Underneath the surface, the spongy, white pith is easily peeled from the flesh, and the dark orange flesh is juicy, tender, and seedless. Navel Chocolate oranges are aromatic and contain a low level of acidity, which creates a very sweet flavor.
Navel Chocolate oranges are available for a short season in the mid-winter through late winter in Europe.
Navel Chocolate oranges, botanically classified as Citrus sinensis, are a rare variety that belongs to the Rutaceae family. Discovered growing as a mutation on a navel orange tree in Valencia, Spain, Navel Chocolate oranges were selected for their very sweet flavor, averaging around twelve Brix, and are considered to be one of the sweetest varieties found in European markets. Navel Chocolate oranges are labeled as a novel, specialty variety and are primarily consumed fresh to experience the sweet flavor and juicy nature fully.
Navel Chocolate oranges are an excellent source of fiber, which can help regulate digestion and vitamin C, which is an antioxidant that can help boost the immune system. The oranges also contain calcium, potassium, and beta-carotene.
Navel Chocolate oranges are best suited for raw applications as their sweet flavor is showcased when consumed fresh, out-of-hand. The oranges can be sliced and tossed into green or fruit salads, used as a topping over ice cream, cakes, and tarts, stirred into yogurt and cereal bowls, or served with chocolate as a sweet dessert. The oranges are also known for their high juice content and can be pressed and served as a sweet drink. Navel Chocolate oranges pair well with nuts such as pistachios, pecans, and pine nuts, yogurt, coconut, strawberries, and bananas. The fresh fruits will keep 2-4 weeks when stored in the refrigerator.
In Europe, Navel Chocolate oranges have become a popular specialty gift during the Christmas season. The uniquely colored fruits are only found in local markets during the winter months, and with their rarity, they have become a part of the European tradition of Christmas oranges. Dating back to the Middle Ages, the tradition of gifting fruits can be traced to Europe during the harsh winter months. It was extremely difficult to find fresh fruits and vegetables, and due to the lack of vital nutrients, many Europeans were prone to develop illnesses, especially the vitamin C deficient disease known as scurvy. In an effort to prevent these illnesses, families would save up money to purchase oranges from merchant ships and often gave the fruits as gifts to their loved ones on Christmas day. Oranges became a symbol of love and care, were very hard to come by, and were considered an expensive, highly desired present. In the modern-day, the tradition of gifting oranges is still practiced by many European families and is a symbol of sharing blessings with others during the holiday season. Navel Chocolate oranges have become a new and unique variation of this tradition, and when given, the fruits are often displayed in large bowls as decoration or are stuffed in the toes of stockings for Christmas morning.
Navel Chocolate oranges were discovered as a mutation growing on a navel orange tree in Valencia, Spain, in 2006. The brown-hued oranges were sampled and highly favored for their sweet taste, and it was decided that the oranges would become a new variety developed through Wilkofruit, an import company based in the Netherlands. Wilkofruit also has a purchasing office in Spain, which is located near the original site of the mutated fruit in Valencia. Today Navel Chocolate oranges are propagated through grafting and are exclusively sold through Wilkofruit to specialty markets across Europe.