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Friday, January 4, 2013

Oranges:


Oranges are assumed to have originated in southern China, northeastern India, and perhaps Southeast Asia.  They were carried to the Mediterranean possibly by Italian traders after 1450 or by Portugese navigators around 1500.  Prior to then oranges were valued by Europeans mainly for medicinal purposes.

The orange has become the most commonly grown tree fruit in the world.  The United States leads  the  world in production of oranges.  Florida produces the most oranges followed by California, Texas, and Arizona.  I remember  when first moving to Florida the orange groves in our area with rows upon rows of orange trees.

 We live near the Indian River in a large citrus growing area.  I can remember seeing the groves with so many oranges on the ground and walking up to the house on the edge of the grove and knocking on the door to ask if we could take a few oranges.   Another benefit of living in a citrus growing area is the  fragrant smell of the orange blossoms.  Not far from here is an orange juice production plant and the squeezed skins are cooked to produce a mash that is fed to livestock. 

Most of the oranges grown in California are the "Washington Navels" and Valencias.   The "Washington Navel" is valued for its ease in peeling and separating, and is the most popular for eating out of hand.   The Valencia Orange, however, is the most important species in California, Texas, and South Africa.  It was the leader in Florida until just recently when the Hamlin took over.  The Hamlin orange is a small, smooth, not highly colored, seedless, and juicy.  While the fruit is only poor-to-medium in quality the tree is high yielding and cold tolerant.  The Valencia is an excellent juice orange but is also very good out of hand. 

Other orange varieties include  the Honeybell, a cross between the tangerine and grapefruit. Then there are  Temples, which are juicy and spicy sweet. They are easy to peel, section easily,  and excellent for eating out of hand. Honey Tangerines are available from mid January through March.  They are plump, juicy and mild.  They're easy to peel and section.  Another orange that is becoming popular is the Blood Orange with its redish fruit.  It is commonly grown  in the Mediterranean, but not so much in Florida because the re coloration rarely develops except during cold weather.   In California it is only grown as a novelty.   Oranges can be stored for three months at 52 degrees.

Oranges are eaten to allay fever, for asthma, to prevent kidney stones, to lower cholesterol, to prevent diabetes, arthritis, and high blood pressure.   The roasted pulp is prepared as a poultice for skin diseases.  The fresh peel is rubbed on acne and used in exfoliating facial scrubs.

Oranges are peeled, segmented and eaten out of hand or utilized in fruit cups, salads, gelatin, and numerous other desserts, and as garnishes on cakes, meats, and poultry dishes.  Oranges are squeezed for their juice and slices and peel are candied as confections.

So, eat up, enjoy, I'll show you how.