West African Oranges
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West African oranges are small to large fruits, averaging 6 to 10 centimeters in diameter, and have an oval, oblate, to round shape. The peel, depending on the variety and growing conditions, can be bumpy, firm, and textured to slightly knobbed with a smoother appearance, covered in prominent oil glands. The peel also ranges in color from dark green to pale yellow-orange. Underneath the surface, the flesh is enveloped in a thick, spongy, and white pith and is divided into 9 to 10 segments by thin white membranes. The flesh also varies from pale yellow to orange and is filled with small juice sacs that have an aqueous and tender consistency, sometimes encasing a few to many cream-colored seeds or being found seedless. West African oranges have a bright, sweet, and tangy flavor with a refreshing balance of sugar and acidity.
West African oranges are available year-round.
West African oranges is a general descriptor used to encompass many different varieties of oranges grown in West Africa, belonging to the Rutaceae family. West Africa has several production regions spanning across multiple countries, and the most concentrated orange cultivation areas are primarily found in Ghana and Nigeria. Despite the warm climate and available land, overall orange production has remained relatively low among West African communities due to a lack of education, transportation, and tools. Both sweet oranges, Citrus sinensis, and sour oranges, Citrus aurantium, are cultivated in West Africa and are sold mainly for domestic use. Within the broad West African orange category, sweet oranges are the most commonly grown type. There are many local varieties unique to the region, including obuasi, asuansi, achiasi, shama, nkwanta, anomabu, and kwesi nyarko oranges. These local varieties vary in appearance and flavor and have been altered over time through extensive natural crossbreeding. Beyond local varieties, several exotic cultivars such as the Washington navel, hamlim, and late valencia have also adapted to West Africa’s warmer climate. West African oranges are staple fruits sold through local markets, typically seen gathered into large piles on the ground or in baskets, and are favored for their sweet, juicy nature, consumed fresh. West African oranges are also grown for small-scale export and are sent to Europe in fresh, juiced, and dried forms.
West African oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C, an antioxidant that strengthens the immune system, reduces inflammation, and protects the cells against external environmental aggressors. The fruits are also a good source of fiber to regulate the digestive tract, potassium to balance fluid levels within the body, and contain lower amounts of folate, calcium, and thiamine.
West African oranges have a sweet taste that is showcased when used fresh. The fruits can be consumed straight, out-of-hand, or they can be segmented and tossed into green salads, mixed into fruit bowls, or sliced as a side dish. West African oranges are also popularly blended into smoothies, pressed and made into a fresh juice, or pressed and mixed with other fruit juices to make a punch. In addition to raw preparations, the juice of West African oranges can be cooked into marmalade, utilized in sauces and poured over roasted meats, or used to flavor desserts such as cakes, muffins, cookies, and puddings. In West Africa, orange juice is frequently combined into a sauce with bananas to create a creamy, caramelized dish, and the dish can be served as a standalone dessert or served over porridge as a sweet and savory breakfast. West African oranges can also be dried, only using the peel, and ground into pieces for spice rubs and tea infusions. West African oranges pair well with fruits such as bananas, pineapples, coconuts, and mangoes, brown sugar, vanilla, spices such as nutmeg, ginger, allspice, coriander, and paprika, meats such as pork, poultry, and fish, rice, sweet potatoes, plantains, and yams. Whole, uncut West African oranges will keep 2 to 4 days at room temperature, or they can be stored in the refrigerator for 7 to 14 days in the vegetable drawer.
In West Africa, many varieties of oranges remain green when fully ripe, which is primarily caused by the climate. Despite the common Western notion of unripe oranges being green, in warmer regions throughout West Africa, the green coloring of the fruit’s skin is created by chlorophyll, a pigment that assists in photosynthesis or converting light to energy for the plant’s cells. An excess of chlorophyll is typically developed from a large amount of sunlight, and warmer temperatures contribute to the fruit’s retaining their green hues. In other climates, green oranges are cold shocked at nighttime as temperatures drop, changing the peel’s color to its characteristic orange. Some oranges are also exposed to ethylene gas to change the peel's coloring, a process known as degreening. In West Africa, green oranges are prominently displayed in fresh markets, and some consumers even consider the green oranges to have a superior, sweeter flavor to the orange fruits.
West African oranges are grown throughout tropical to subtropical regions spanning across many of the sixteen countries that encompass West Africa, with concentrated production regions in Ghana, Benin, and Nigeria. Sour orange varieties were believed to have been introduced to West Africa sometime before the 11th century, and sweet oranges later arrived sometime before the 16th century. Today, many different varieties of oranges are generally classified under the West African orange name, and the fruits are primarily grown for local sale, found at fresh markets. There is also a small number of fresh fruits, juice, and dried peels exported to areas of Europe, including the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom, and Germany.
Recipes that include West African Oranges. One is easiest, three is harder.
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