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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Oranges Revisited

Oranges Revisited:

About:

The orange or sweet orange is the fruit of the citrus sinensis.  The orange is a hybrid possibly between "pomelo" and the mandarin which has been cultivated since ancient times.  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.  Oranges are assumed to have originated in southern China, northeastern India, and perhaps Southeast Asia.   As of 1987 orange trees are the most cultivated fruit trees in the world.    Oranges are widely grown in tropical and subtropical climates.  The orange tree is an evergreen, flowering tree.  Oranges are classified in 2 general categories - sweet and bitter.  Sweet oranges are the type most commonly consumed.  Bitter oranges are often used to make jam or marmalade.  their zest serves as the flavoring for liqueurs such as Grand Marnier and Cointreau

History:

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 Portuguese navigators around 1500.  Prior to then oranges were valued by Europeans mainly for medicinal purposes.

My Story:

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 which is 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. 


Uses:

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.

Varieties:

Citrus sinensis is divided into 4 classes each with distinct characteristics:  common oranges, blood or pigmented oranges, navel oranges, and acid less oranges. 
Valencias - a late season fruit that is popular when the navel is out of season. 
Harts Tardiff Valencias - a variety imported from the Azores Islands
Hamlin - small, smooth, not highly colored, seedless and juicy with a pale yellow juice.
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 reddish 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.

Nutrition:

Oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C and a very good source of dietary fiber.  They are a good source of B vitamins including vitamin B1, pantothenic acid, and folate, vitamin A, calcium, copper and potassium.

Health Benefits:

 The vitamin C in oranges is the primary water soluble antioxidant in the body, disarming free radicals and preventing damage in the aqueous environment both inside and outside cells.  Additionally, 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.


Selecting and Storing:

Choose oranges that have smooth textured skin and are firm and heavy for their size.  Avoid those that have soft spots, or traces of mold.
Oranges can be store at room temperature or in the refrigerator.  Either way they will last 2 weeks.


So..... Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.

Simple but Good

Orange Peel Cookies:
1 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup milk
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 whole orange with peel - chopped, seeded, and pureed.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Combine the shortening and sugar, and mix until light.  Stir in vanilla, milk, and ground orange.  Add the flour, baking powder, and baking soda.  Mix until combined.  Let dough sit for 15 minutes, then drop teaspoon sized drops onto greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 400 degrees F. for about 7 -10 minutes or until done.
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