More than any other fruit, the orange is associated
with and valued for its vitamin C content. But oranges have more
to offer nutritionally than just this one nutrient. A small orange
contains generous levels of folate (folic acid), potassium, and
thiamin, as well as some calcium and magnesium. Compared to other
citrus fruits, oranges have a broader range of uses: They can
be added to various cooked or cold dishes, eaten as snacks, or
squeezed for their delicious juice.
Orange trees are semitropical non deciduous
trees and, like other citrus fruits, they probably originated
in Southeast Asia. We take oranges for granted now , but at one
time they were expensive and only rarely available in cooler climates.
The different varieties of oranges will be at their best during
the midpoint of their growing seasons. Choose oranges that are
firm, heavy for their size (they will be juiciest), and evenly
shaped. The skin should be smooth rather than deeply pitted, although
juice oranges are generally smoother than navels. Thin skinned
oranges are juicier than thick-skinned varieties, and small to
medium sized fruits are sweeter than the largest oranges. There
is no need to worry about ripeness, oranges are always picked
when they are ripe.
Skin colour is not a good guide to quality:
Some oranges are artificially coloured with a harmless vegetable
dye, while others may show traces of green although they are ripe.
Through a natural process called "regreening," the skins
of ripe oranges sometimes revert to green if there are blossoms
on the tree at the same time as the fruit. This is because the
tree produces chlorophyll to nourish the blossoms, and some of
the pigment may be taken up by the mature fruit. Oranges that
have "regreened" may actually be sweeter because they
Superficial brown streaks will not affect the
flavour or texture of the fruit, but oranges that have serious
bruises or soft spots, or feel spongy, should be avoided.
Oranges keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator. But they
keep almost as well at room temperature, retaining nearly all
of their vitamin content even after two weeks. (They will also
yield more juice at room temperature.) Their sturdy peel protects
them and they require no further wrapping. In fact, if oranges
are placed in unperforated plastic bags the moisture trapped inside
may encourage mould growth. If you like to eat oranges chilled,
by all means refrigerate them.
Halve unpeeled oranges crosswise for juicing, or halve them either
crosswise or lengthwise and then cut each half into thirds, for
a juicy snack to be eaten from the peel. For garnishing, halve
an orange lengthwise, then cut each half crosswise into slices.
Navel oranges peel easily if you insert your
finger into the opening and pull back the peel. To peel other
types of oranges, cut a disk of peel from the top, then cut slices
of peel longitudinally from top to bottom. Finally, cut the remaining
peel from the bottom. Or, peel spiral-fashion (as you would an
apple) after removing a slice from the top. Separate the orange
segments by cutting between the membrane and flesh with a sharp
knife. Work over a bowl to catch the juices. For orange "cartwheels,"
just slice the peeled fruit crosswise.
If you need orange zest, use the fine side
of a hand grater, a special zesting tool, a sharp paring knife,
or a vegetable peeler to remove the zest from a scrubbed orange.
Try not to scrape any of the bitter white pith from the fruit
along with the coloured part of the peel. Check that the oranges
you use for zest are not artificially coloured or waxed.