The orange has an interesting history. Among the Europeans, Romans were the first to taste this juicy fruit. It reached the Roman Empire around the 1st century BC. The credit for introducing this fruit to the Roman Empire goes to the Persian traders, who had trade relations with India and Ceylon. It became quite popular among the nobility and military classes of the empire. The Romans developed the first orchard of oranges in North Africa around the 1st century AD.
Portuguese navigators have been credited with bringing orange trees to the Mediterranean region around 1500. After introduction of the sweet orange, it was quickly adopted as an edible fruit; it was so highly regarded that wealthy persons grew oranges in private conservatories, called “orangeries”, and by 1646 it was well known in Europe.
Portuguese, Spanish, Arab and Dutch sailors planted citrus trees along trade routes to prevent scurvy. On his second voyage in 1493, Christopher Columbus took the seeds of oranges, lemons and citrons to Haiti and the Caribbean. They were introduced in Florida (along with lemons) in 1513 by Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León and to California by the Franciscans in the 18th century, and were introduced to Hawaii in 1792.
Spaniards undoubtedly introduced the sweet orange into South America and Mexico in the mid-1500s, and probably the French took it to Louisiana. It was from New Orleans that seeds were obtained and distributed in Florida about 1872 and many orange groves were established by grafting the sweet orange onto sour orange rootstocks. Arizona received the orange tree with the founding of missions between 1707 and 1710. The orange was brought to San Diego, California, by those who built the first mission there in 1769. An orchard was planted at the San Gabriel Mission around 1804.
The orange is one of the most common and popular fruit. It is well-liked because of its easy availability all year round, is dense in nutrition and has a great taste.
Oranges are citrus fruits ranging in diameter from about 2 to 3 inches, with a finely texturized skin that is orange in color with the pulp also orange and very succulent.
There are oranges that are sweet, bitter and sour. The sweet varieties are usually more fragrant. They include Valencia, Navel and Jaffa oranges which are ideal for making juices.
In the orange family, there are also the Mandarin oranges (with loose skin), Clementine (loose skin and seedless), Tangerine (orange-red Mandarin), the blood orange that has dark burgundy colored flesh and there are a number of other lesser known ones.
Oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C and flavonoids. One orange supplies nearly 100 percent of the recommended daily dietary intake of vitamin C.
When you eat a whole orange, it provides good dietary fiber. Leave as much of the “albedo” which is the white matter under the peel, since it contains the highest amount of valuable bio-flavonoids and other anti-cancer agents.
In addition, oranges are a good source of vitamin A, the B vitamins, amino acids, beta-carotene, pectin, potassium, folic acid, calcium, iodine, phosphorus, sodium, zinc, manganese and iron.
An orange packs over 170 different phytonutrients and more than 60 flavonoids, many of which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and blood clot inhibiting properties, as well as strong anti-oxidant effects.
The combination of the high amount of anti-oxidant (vitamin C) and flavonoids in oranges makes it one of the best fruits in helping to promote optimal health.
The following are some of the health benefits of eating oranges:
Arteriosclerosis: Regularly consuming vitamin C retards the development of hardening of the arteries.
Blood and oxygen: Oranges are rich in Iron and Vitamin B6, essential in the production of red cells in the blood, which carry oxygen from lungs to cells. Oranges also help prevent lung cancer.
Bones and teeth: Oranges are rich in calcium, which aids in healthy bone structure and teeth.
Cancer prevention: A compound in oranges called liminoid, has been found to help fight cancers of the mouth, skin, lung, breast, stomach and colon. The high vitamin C content also acts as a good anti-oxidant that protects cells from damages by free radicals.
Cholesterol: The alkaloid synephrine found under the orange peel can reduce the liver’s production of cholesterol. Whereas the antioxidant fights oxidative stress that is the main culprit in oxidizing the LDLs in our blood.
Fiber: The fibres in oranges are good for the digestive system and relieving constipation. Fibres also reduce cholesterol which is helpful in preventing atherosclerosis, and are also good in keeping the blood sugar levels in control.
Folate intake: One orange provides about 10% of the necessary daily folate intake. Folic acid is helpful in skin health and brain development.
Heart disease: A high intake of flavonoids and vitamin C has been known to diminish the risk of heart diseases.
High blood pressure: Studies have shown that a flavonoid called hesperidin in oranges can lower high blood pressure.
Immune system: The strong content of vitamin C stimulates white cells to fight infection, naturally building a good immune system.
Kidney stones, prevent: Drinking orange juice daily can significantly drop the risk of formation of calcium oxalate stones in the kidney.
Skin: The anti-oxidant in orange help protect the skin from free radical damage known to cause signs of aging.
Stomach ulcer: Consuming vitamin C rich foods helps to lower the incidence of peptic ulcers and in turn, reduce the risk of stomach cancer.
Viral infections, protection against: The abundance of polyphenols have been shown to provide protection against viral infections.
Oranges are helpful in preventing several other diseases, like: arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, tuberculosis, pneumonia, rheumatism and diabetes.
HOW TO SELECT AND STORE
Oranges make good snack – just peel and enjoy, especially the loose skin varieties.
To extract most juice from oranges, always juice them when they are at room temperature. Rolling them under the palm of your hand on a flat surface will also help extract more juice.
Vitamin C gets destroyed fast when exposed to the air, so eat up an orange quickly once cut up. Do not leave the juice exposed for too long to preserve optimal nutrients.
Oranges can be stored at room temperature for up to two weeks or stored loosely in the refrigerator. Do not store wrapped to prevent moisture and mold.
TIPS FOR PREPARING AND EATING
Oranges can be eaten as a snack, just peel and enjoy. Before cutting the orange wash the skin so that any dirt or bacteria residing on the surface will not be transferred to the fruit. Proceed to cut the sections into halves or thirds, depending upon your personal preference.
Thin-skinned oranges can be easily peeled with your fingers. For easy peeling of the thicker skinned varieties, first cut a small section of the peel from the top of the orange. You can then either make four longitudinal cuts from top to bottom and peel away these sections of skin, or starting at the top, peel the orange in a spiral fashion.
Oranges are oftentimes called for in recipes in the form of orange juice. The juice can be extracted in a variety of ways. You could either use a juicer or do it the old fashioned way, squeezing by hand.
If your recipe calls for orange zest, make sure that you use an orange that is organically grown since most conventionally grown fruits will have pesticide residues on their skin and may be artificially colored. After washing and drying the orange, use a zester, paring knife or vegetable peeler to remove the zest, which is the orange part of the peel. Make sure not to remove too much of the peel as the white pith underneath is bitter and should not be used. The zest can then be more finely chopped or diced if necessary.
You can also use oranges in fruit or vegetable salads or eat them by themselves.