Contrary to what most of us think, this fruit was not named for its color. Instead, the word orange comes from a transliteration of the sanskrit naranga. Which comes from the Tamil naru. Which means “fragrant.”
It’s thought that the reason oranges have long been associated with fertility (and therefore, weddings) is because this lush evergreen tree can simultaneously produce flowers, fruit and foliage.
There are three basic types of orange — sweet, loose-skinned and bitter. Sweet oranges are prized both for eating and for their juice. They’re generally large and have skins that are more difficult to remove than their loose-skinned relatives. They may have seeds or be seedless.
Meet the Members of the Orange Family
Among the more popular sweet oranges are the seedless navel, the juicy, coarse-grained valencia and the thin-skinned, red-fleshed blood orange. Sweet oranges are better eaten fresh than cooked. Loose-skinned oranges are so named because their skins easily slip off the fruit. Their segments are also loose and divide with ease.
Members of the mandarin orange family are all loose skinned; they vary in flavor from sweet to tart-sweet. Bitter oranges, the most well-known of which are the seville and the bergamot, are — as their name implies — are too sour and astringent to eat raw. Instead, they’re cooked in preparations such as marmalade and bigarade sauce. Bitter oranges are also greatly valued for their peel, which is candied, and their essential oils, which are used to flavor foods as well as some liqueurs, such as curacao. Most of the bitter orange supply comes from Spain.
USDA grading of oranges is voluntary and not considered necessary by most growers. The two grades used are U.S. Fancy (best) and U.S. No. 1. Fresh oranges are available year-round at different times, depending on the variety.
Choose orange fruit that is firm and heavy for its size, with no mold or spongy spots. Unfortunately, because oranges are sometimes dyed with food coloring, a bright color isn’t necessarily an indicator of quality. Regreening sometimes occurs in fully ripe oranges, particularly with Valencias. A rough, brownish area (russeting) on the skin doesn’t affect flavor or quality either.
Oranges can be stored at cool room temperature for a day or so, but should then be refrigerated and can be kept there for up to 2 weeks.
Oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C and contain some vitamin A. Once cut or squeezed, however, the vitamin C quickly begins to dissipate. After only 8 hours at room temperature or 24 hours in the refrigerator, there’s a 20 percent vitamin C loss. Canned, bottled and frozen-concentrate orange juices have a greatly decreased vitamin C content.
The color of an orange is no indication of its quality because oranges are usually dyed to improve their appearance. Brown spots on the skin indicate a good quality orange. Pick a sweet orange by examining the navel. Choose the ones with the biggest holes. If you put oranges in a hot oven before peeling them, no white fibers will be left on them.
Oranges that look green have undergone a natural process called regreening. This is due to a ripe orange pulling green chlorophyll pigment from the leaves. They are excellent eating and usually very sweet.
The orange is the chief food crop of the United States.
Orange juice is not necessarily high on the nutritional scale. While it may contain vitamin C and potassium, it provides little more than a source of carbohydrates in the form of a natural sugar.
Orange juice will lose more vitamin C content when stored in an open container or one with a plastic lid. Always store orange juice in a glass container with a screw cap.
Oranges that need to be peeled for dishes should be soaked in boiling water for at least five to seven minutes before peeling. This will make it easier to peel and remove all the white pulp.
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