Oranges are round citrus fruits that grow best in tropical climates and are harvested in late fall or early winter. There are a variety of oranges. Most common are the sweet oranges or Citrus sinensis. These are the Navel, Mandarin, Valencia and Jaffa varieties. A new hybrid, called the blood orange, has reddish veins.
Bitter oranges, scientifically known as Citrus aurantium are often used in marmalades and jams. The zest, or rind shavings, are used to flavor liqueurs like Grand Marnier and Cointreau.
Oranges originate from Asia. They spread through the Holy Land and were brought to Spain with the Moorish invasion. Around the 15th century, the Spanish Armada brought the trees to the Caribbean. Oranges were coveted by sailors who needed Vitamin C on long voyages to combat scurvy.
Up until modern times in Northern Europe they were so expensive and such a rare treat that they were a favorite in Christmas stockings. Now, oranges are available almost year round in supermarkets.
To grow oranges, a warm climate is needed. They are highly susceptible to freeze and frost. California, Florida and Texas are known for their orange groves.
If you are going to plant the seeds, choose a sunny southern exposure which can be protected in case of frost. Most seedlings take up to seven years to become a flowering and thus fruit-filled tree. Three stems can sprout from a single seed. Each is the genetic “clone” of the mother orange tree. If that happens, the weaker one of the three must be thinned out. Keep in mind that saplings in containers will require more water, until they are a good three to four years old. Then they can be transplanted into the garden.
Full sized orange trees are round and bushy. They stand about 8 -10 feet tall and are that much around, so spacing is key. They require full strong sun to thrive and produce fruit. Also, use a slow release fertilizer to enhance the soil around them.
Nutritional Content of Oranges
Obviously oranges are known for their Vitamin C content. But, many people steer away from them because of the natural sugars in them. But, typical orange of 135 g only contains about 61 calories.
Vitamin C 69-70 mg
Fiber 3.1 g
Folate 39.69 mg
Thiamin (B1) .11 mg
Potassium 437 mg
Vitamin A 268.55 UI
Calcium 52.40 mg
Health Benefits of Oranges
Oranges have been discovered to contain 170 phytonutrients and over 60 so called citrus flavanones. These agents have been linked to effectively lowering blood pressure and cholesterol as well as being an excellent anti-inflammatory.
Of course the high concentration of Vitamin C (116% of the daily recommended amount) gives oranges their reputation for fighting off cold and flu viruses. Vitamin C is water soluble, so the body does not store it. It needs to be consumed on a daily basis; however, there is still skepticism among scientists that huge amounts can ward off the common cold. It may boost the immune system, though because of the high antioxidant levels.
Some people believe the antioxidants in oranges can combat inflammatory disease such as arthritis and asthma. The World Health Organization’s recent report states a diet rich in oranges provides cardiovascular benefits. An Australian study in 2003 showed people who regularly consumed oranges had almost a 50% less likelihood of stomach and esophageal cancers.
Ways to Prepare and Store Oranges
Oranges purchased from stores may look more “orange”, but that is because they are often injected with dyes. It does not mean they are more nutritious than the ones picked straight from the grove. The smoother the texture of the skin, and the firmer they are, the more juice they contain.
Oranges may be eaten whole after peeling away the rind. The rind can be grated as a zest in cakes and salads. Of course, there is nothing like freshly squeezed orange juice, but it can go rancid quickly, even in refrigeration and should be consumed within 24 hours or so. The fruit if left whole can last up to two weeks after being picked whether it is refrigerated or not. The juice can be frozen in ice trays or bags. Dried orange zest should be stored in an airtight container in a dark cool place.
Thinner skinned oranges can be peeled away with the fingers. For thicker skinned varieties, make a slit near the top where the stem was and peel in a spiral fashion. Orange peelers can also be found in cooking stores.
Want to learn more about the health benefits of oranges?
CDC’s Nutritional information, health benefits, and recipes for Oranges
Tips for growing organes from seeds from Texas A&M University