An orange is a common
citrus fruit. Oranges need not be orange. Depending on
climate and variety, an orange may have green patches when
ripe. Some will even experience regreening, which is when
an orange-colored orange loses its orange. To deal with
this aesthetic problem, oranges are often dyed orange!
Rough brownish patches are indications of abrasion against
the tree, which does not affect taste.
The orange has a
sweet-sour taste and is commonly peeled and eaten fresh,
or squeezed for its juice. It has a thick bitter rind that
is usually discarded, but can be used in cooking. The
outer-most layer of the rind can be scraped off to make
zest, having a similar flavor to the inner part of the
orange. This is the part of the orange that contains
orange oil. The white part of the rind is almost always
discarded as it is extremely bitter, but it contain
lots of pectin. Orange peel can be made into candied peel
and used in sweet dishes.
A number of varieties of
orange are now cultivated widely. The sweet orange
(Citrus aurantium) was first grown in Spain, and has
become the most popular variety. The sweet orange will
grow to different sizes and colors due to local
conditions, most commonly with ten carpels (slices)
A single mutation in an
orchard of sweet oranges planted at a monastery in 1820 in
Brazil led to the navel orange (aka Washington,
Riverside or Bahia navel). A single cutting of the
original was then transplanted to California in 1870,
creating a new market worldwide. The mutation caused a diploid,
or twin, fruit, with a smaller orange embedded in the
outer fruit near the stem. From the outside the smaller,
undeveloped, twin leaves a human navel-like formation at
the top of the fruit. Navel oranges are almost always
seedless, and tend to be larger than the sweet orange.
The Valencia or Murcia
orange is one of the sweet oranges used for juice
extraction. It is a late-season fruit. It is a popular
variety of orange when the navel oranges are out of
The blood orange
(sometimes squeamishly called 'ruby orange') has streaks
of red in the fruit, and when squeezed the juice is often
reddish. The mandarin is similar, but smaller and
sweeter, and the scarlet navel is a variety with
the same diapaliod mutation as the normal naval orange.
Bitter oranges are
used in marmalade and as an ingredient in of the liqueurs
triple sec and curacao.
Oranges in Cooking
Orange juice - produced
by juicing oranges. Brazil is the largest producer of
orange juice in the world, followed by Florida. Orange
juice is available in fresh-squeezed or 'reconstituted'
forms, and in refrigerated or pasteurized long-life
bottles. The heat-treated juice is made from whole crushed
oranges including the peel, giving it a much more bitter
taste than fresh-squeezed.
Frozen Orange juice - In
the USA orange juice is sometimes sold in the form of
frozen concentrate blocks, so a recipe may say 'one box or
block frozen orange juice'. These are not available in
most of the USA, Australia and some other countries.
Orange blossom honey
(really citrus honey) - produced by putting beehives in
the citrus groves during bloom, which also pollinates
seeded citrus varieties. Orange blossom honey is highly
prized, and has a distinct orangey flavor.
Oranges are not often
used in savory cooking, but they are an important flavoring
ingredient of several recipes including orange chicken,
and the French dish duck a l'orange. Orange zest, candied
peel and orange juice are frequently used in making cakes