Oranges are small to medium in size, averaging 5-10 centimeters in diameter, and are globular, oblate, or oval in shape. The rind ranges in color from orange, yellow, to green and is smooth with a leathery texture, dotted with many small oil glands across the surface that produce fragrant essential oil. Underneath the rind, there is a thin layer of white pith that is bitter and spongy. The flesh is juicy, also ranges in color from red, orange, to yellow, is filled with tightly packed pulp and juice sacs, and is divided into 10-14 segments by thin membranes. The flesh, depending on the variety, may also contain a few cream-colored seeds. Oranges are aromatic, juicy, and vary in flavor from sweet, acidic, tart, to sour.
Oranges are available year-round, with peak season in the winter through summer.
Oranges, botanically a part of the Rutaceae or citrus family, are colorful fruits that grow in subtropical climates on evergreen trees that can reach up to fifteen meters in height. Recognized as one of the most popular cultivated fruit trees in the world, Oranges are not one of the original citrus species that occur in the wild and are a cultivated hybrid of pomelos and mandarins. There are over six hundred varieties of Oranges that can be divided into three main types including the sweet orange, mandarin orange, and sour orange. Some of the more commercially-important varieties include Washington navel, Valencia, Satsuma, and Seville. Despite the popular belief that they earned their name from the color of their skin, Oranges earned their name from the Sanskrit word naranga, meaning fragrant. This word was then known as narang in Arabic and was incorporated into the English language from the French word orenge. Oranges are favored by chefs, home cooks, and gardeners for their aromatic oils, bright zest, and sweet-tart juice and are incorporated into both sweet and savory applications.
Oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C, fiber, potassium, and have anti-inflammatory properties. They also contain some calcium, vitamin A, manganese, iron, copper, and magnesium.
Oranges are best suited for both raw and cooked applications but are showcased when used fresh, out of hand. The fruit can easily be peeled, segmented, and served as a stand-alone snack, or it can be tossed into green salads, fruit salads, and fruit cups. The juice is also commonly used and can be consumed fresh in smoothies, cocktails, soups, and gelatins. In addition to savory preparations, Orange juice can be used to flavor cakes, muffins, cookies, granola, soft-drinks, and candy. The zest of the Orange can be used to add flavor to meats, fish, and stir-fries. In South America, Oranges are boiled in sweetened water and poured over toast to create a unique soup. Oranges pair well with strawberries, pineapple, grapes, walnuts, pecans, light balsamic, kale, carrot, fennel, beets, potatoes, winter squash, cinnamon, cumin, ginger, onions, garlic, fish such as salmon, tuna, and mahi-mahi, and meat such as poultry, beef, and pork. The fruits will keep up to two weeks when stored in a cool and dark place and can be stored in the refrigerator, loosely wrapped in plastic.
Oranges have been used and celebrated throughout history for their fresh flavor and aromatic oils. Considered a symbol of chastity in Japan, fertility in the Middle East, and good fortune in China, Oranges were often given as gifts during Christmas and New Years and were largely considered a dessert fruit. The Orange’s popularity continued as technology advanced and created new uses including juicing and extracting oils for household cleaners, perfumes, cosmetics, and bath products. Today there is even an annual citrus parade in Florida that celebrates the Orange and uses over 100,000 pieces of fruit to create the floats. The parade also features marching bands and celebrity guest appearances and is one of central Florida’s longest running traditions.
Oranges are native to Asia, specifically southern China, India, and Southeast Asia, and are a hybrid variety that was developed around 2500 BCE. These fruits are not found growing wild and were spread to the Mediterranean in the 1400s via traders returning from voyages to Asia. In the 1500s, Spanish explorers introduced Oranges to South America and Mexico, and the fruits were spread up into North America with French explorers. Today Oranges are found across almost every continent and are cultivated in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Spain, Italy, India, Japan, Egypt, and the United States. They are also produced on a smaller scale in Puerto Rico, Central America, New Zealand, West Africa, the Philippines, and China.