With recipes for
- Orange Salad With Olives And Mint
- Oranges Il Giglio
- Blood Orange Sorbet
- Spicy Cabbage With Mandarin Oranges
Oranges are the most important citrus crop in the world. They are so abundant and ubiquitous that we usually take them for granted. But Americans couldn’t always open the refrigerator and grab a glass of orange juice or walk by the corner fruit stand and pick up a navel orange. According to Richard Ray and Lance Walheim, authors of “Citrus, How to Select, Grow and Enjoy” (HP Books, 1980), the story of oranges in America is a kind of a citrus version of how the West was won.
In 1841, William Wolfskill planted the first orange tree in Los Angeles. Though he was almost laughed out of town for even thinking of selling oranges, he persevered. He sold oranges to Gold Rush miners and, with the completion of the transcontinental railroad, shipped them to St. Louis in 1877. The California citrus business was off and running.
In 1873, Eliza Tibbets was given three branches of an orange variety from Brazil. By 1978 she had three fruit-bearing trees and had started the navel orange industry in Riverside, Calif. Today, we’re all eating descendants of the Washington navel she developed. And one of the three original trees she started with is still alive and bearing fruit.
In China, as early as 2400 BC, the fragrance of the orange peel, especially when wrapped by a warm hand, was considered a special treat. Trade routes carried the orange to India and Africa, and beyond to the warm, sunny areas of the Mediterranean.
Oranges flourished in the Roman Empire until the Lombard invasion of the sixth century broke the trade link between Italy and the Byzantine Empire. Some six centuries later, the “bigarade” or bitter or sour orange was introduced into Spain by Arabs and into Italy and France by Crusaders returning from Palestine. Sour oranges came to the New World with Columbus, and orange seeds from Cuba were planted for the first time in continental America by a member of Cortez’s party in 1518.
The sweet orange reappeared in Southern Italy and Sicily in the 15th century. A new, sweeter variety emerged from China in the 16th century but was labeled the Portugal orange because the Portuguese spread it throughout southern Europe. Florida orange trees were planted at St. Augustine in 1565. And in 1769, Franciscan Father Junipero Serra introduced oranges into California.
The mandarin orange, a small loose-skinned orange named for the region of China from which it came, was brought to England from China in 1805.
In general, oranges, like other citrus, thrive in semitropical regions such as Florida and subtropical regions such as California and the Mediterranean. Florida produces about three times the amount of oranges as California.
In world orange production, Brazil is the leader, followed by the United State, China, India, and Mexico. Because of increased demand, US imports of all citrus, including oranges, has increased dramatically in the past 30 years. According to the USDA Economic Research Service, oranges in both fresh and juice form alone accounted for nearly 10 percent of total per capita fruit consumption in 2009-10. Orange imports in 2009-10 were 10 times higher than levels seen in 1980-81. According to a June 26, 2013 article in “The Produce News,” South Africa, Chile, Mexico and Australia are the top sources for U.S. orange imports.
Oranges also grow in tropical areas, mainly in parts of South and Central America and also in some areas of Southeast Asia. However, tropical fruit is less predictable than fruit from semi-tropical areas because the hot weather matures fruit so quickly. Also, citrus fruit from tropical areas will often still have a green rind because it takes cool nights for the bright color to set.
This explains why most Florida oranges are turned into juice. That state’s climate is warmer and more humid than that of California, where cooler evenings and lower humidity produce more attractive fruit with higher acid levels, though Florida fruit is generally sweeter.
The Mediterranean rim produces a variety of oranges, from the bitter or Seville orange of Spain to the clementine of Morocco (also from Spain), the blood orange of Italy and the Jaffa orange of Israel. Mandarins are widely grown in China and the United States.
If oranges were royalty – The House of Orange, perhaps – then Valencias and navels would be this dynasty’s king and queen.
The thin-skinned Valencia orange, which originated on the Iberian Peninsula, is the world’s most important commercial variety. Valencias are nearly seedless and are excellent juicers. And the juice doesn’t loose its vitamin C overnight in refrigerator.
Probably the best eating orange in the world is the navel orange of California. The navel is a seedless orange, oval with a thick, easy-to-remove peel and segments that separate cleanly. Though not normally used as a juice orange, the navel can be juiced but the juice must be used immediately or it will become bitter. The word navel comes from the development of a secondary fruit at the end of the main fruit, which causes a belly button look.
Seville oranges are exported from Spain to Britain where they are used almost exclusively for making marmalade, though some Seville oranges are grown in Florida. The fragrant and pleasantly sweet Jaffas, also known as shamouti oranges, are an important Mediterranean orange mostly associated with Israel. Blood oranges, so called because of a pigment that gives the flesh a deep red color reminiscent of blood, have a rich orange flavor with strawberry and raspberry notes. The Moro blood orange has a rounded shape and the tarocco is more elongated. Both are slightly less acid than other varieties.
You might call the mandarin the crowned prince of The House of Orange. Actually, the mandarin has its own large and varied family. Mandarins as a whole are a smaller, slightly flattened variety with loose or puffy skin that is easily separated from the pulp of the fruit. Hence, the reference as “slip-skin oranges.” Segments are easily separated and the juice has less acid than a normal orange.
Mandarins generally fall into four main groups, some of which (but not all) may be considered tangerines. They include satsumas, Mediterranean mandarins, the king mandarins of Indonesia and the common mandarins which include clementines and dancys. Many of the newer varieties are hybrids of members of these groups.
A word about tangerines: Most consumers and far too many retailers casually use the word tangerine to refer to what is actually a mandarin. Tangerines have no botanical standing. They originally referred to the dancy mandarin that came from the port of Tangier in Morocco. The name stuck when that variety caught on. Now the term tangerine most often refers to any brightly colored mandarin.
The mild and sweet tasting satsuma is a popular seedless mandarin because it comes in time for the holidays. The dancy tangerine, introduced to Florida from Morocco, was once the leading commercial variety but is not now widely planted. It is a small to medium in size, with an easily peeled, dark orange skin and lively, rich flavor. The aromatic honey mandarin (not to be confused, as it often is, with the murcott) has a slightly flattened shape with a smooth, glossy orange, thin skin that peels easily. The good news is the flesh is rich, juicy and very sweet. The bad news: lots of seeds.
The clementine is a cross between the mandarin and Seville orange. It is small with an intense flavor. The fairchild is a cross between the clementine and the Orlando tangelo. The skin is a deep orange skin, somewhat pebbly and peels easily. It is juicy with a rich and sweet flavor.
The tangor is most often called a temple orange in stores and less frequently a royal mandarin. This cross between an orange and a mandarin is larger than a tangerine but smaller than an orange with a red-orange color and easy-to-peel skin. It has a rich, spicy flavor and a Seville-like fragrance.
The tangelo is a hybrid of the mandarin and grapefruit and has five varieties, only two of which are widely available. The Orlando is a medium to large, flat-round fruit that is juicy and has a mild flavor. More popular is the minneola which looks like an orange with a stubby neck or large nipple at the stem end. It has a deep red-orange color and pebbly feel. There are few seeds and the skin peels easily revealing flesh that has a rich, sharp flavor.
Seasons for orange varieties overlap, so you can almost guarantee some kind of orange all-year long.
The bulk of the naval orange harvest is from November through May, with peak supplies from January through March. Valencias are sometimes called “summer” oranges because they peak in May, June and July, though they begin arriving in February and run through October. Some form of mandarin orange
is available from November through April, though supplies can begin as early as mid-October and run into May. Blood oranges from California run mid-December through mid April. Jaffa oranges from Israel arrive in mid-winter. Australian imports are bunched almost entirely in July and August, though the United States has become a less important market for Australian citrus
exports in recent years.
SELECTION, HANDLING & STORAGE
All citrus fruits should be heavy for their size, indicating that they’re full of juice. Lighter fruit has more skin and drier pulp. As Valencias ripen on the tree, they go from green to yellow-orange and then regain a little green tinge starting at the stem end as a result of chlorophyll returning to the peel. Don’t confuse this “regreening”, as it is called, with immaturity.
In general, look for fruit with unblemished skin, absent of wrinkles, soft areas or mold. Florida and Texas sometimes use a dye to enhance the appearance of their fruit for the marketplace and therefore, must be stamped “color added.” People with allergies to certain food dyes should be aware of this treatment. Make sure the skins of the oranges you select are nice and shiny. The shinier the skin, the fresher the fruit. (All citrus is waxed to replace natural wax that is removed during the washing process.)
Store oranges in a cool place outside the refrigerator and try to use them within a few days. If keeping longer, refrigerate them in a plastic bag or in the vegetable crisper section of the refrigerator.
One medium orange (154 grams or 5.5 ounces of edible pulp) has 80 calories, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of dietary fiber, 1 gram of protein, 120% of the RDA for vitamin C and 4% for calcium. Oranges are also a good source of potassium.
One medium mandarin orange or tangerine weighs about 109 grams and contains 45 calories, 1 gram of fat, 16 grams of carbohydrates and 2 grams of dietary fiber. Vitamin C is lower than that of oranges, at 40% of the RDA. (However, note that serving size is about two-thirds of an orange in weight.) Calcium is about the same as an orange or slightly higher, and potassium is somewhat lower.
Oranges, along with other citrus, contain substances such as carotenoids, flavonoids and coumarins that are considered powerful anti-carcinogens. Oranges also have high levels of the powerful antioxidant glutathione and cancer-inhibitor glucarate.
Three medium oranges make a pound. It takes 2-4 medium oranges to get 1 cup of juice. For 1 cup of bite-size pieces you’ll need 2 medium oranges, with each orange yielding 10-12 sections. One medium orange provides 4 teaspoons of grated zest or peel.
Four or five average size mandarins or tangerines (2 1/4 to 2 3/8-inches in diameter) make a pound. One tangerine yields 3 tablespoons of juice, 1 teaspoon of grated zest or peel, and 10 to 12 segments (18 to 21 per cup).
When a dish calls for sliced oranges, you have your choice of Valencia, navel or blood, depending on the dish. Blood oranges make a particularly dramatic look. To avoid getting the unsightly white pith, use this method:
Cut a slice off both ends so that you have a flat, stable surface. Then, with one of the flat surfaces on a cutting board, run a sharp paring knife down from the North to the South poles, s
licing off strips of skin and pith as you do. In the beginning, you’ll probably take off a little bit more flesh than you’d like. But after a few attempts, you’ll be getting only skin and pith. When you gone all around the orange, turn it upside down and slice off the small amount that was hard to get at on the bottom. Then you can cut the orange into sections or slices.
Some flavorings for oranges: cinnamon, mint, sherry vinegar, orange liqueurs (from Triple Sec to Grand Marnier), chocolate and almonds.
ORANGE SALAD WITH OLIVES AND MINT
This kind of salad you can imagine eating anywhere along the Mediterranean, from Morocco to Sicily to Greece.
- 1 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
- 4 navel oranges, peeled
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon orange juice
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
- Kosher salt to taste
- 12 black olives (preferably oil-cured), pitted and halved
- Soak onions in ice water for 30 minutes. Drain.
- Meanwhile, peel oranges as directed above, making sure as much of the white pith as possible is removed. Slice, crosswise as thinly as possible and save any juice that accumulates from the slicing. Laythe oranges in a spiral on a platter.
- Combine the oil, lemon and orange juice with salt, mint and any of the accumulated orange juice. Strew the onion slices over the oranges. Spread the dressing over both evenly. Then sprinkle with olives. Serves 4.
ORANGES IL GIGLIO
This dish was inspired from a dessert I had at a restaurant in New York called Il Giglio. They wouldn’t give the recipe so I had to guess at the ingredients and the proportions.
- 4 navel oranges
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 cup Triple Sec or other orange liqueur
- 1/4 cup brandy
- 2 tablespoons amaretto
- 1/4 cup Grand Marnier
- 4 mint sprigs
- 4 almond or chocolate biscotti
- Peel 2 of the oranges with a vegetable peeler so you get strips about 2 to 21/2 inches long and about 1/2 inch wide. Stack peels. Then cut them into julienne strips.
- Put peels in a saucepan with cold water just to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer 15 minutes. Drain. Put sugar and 11/2 cups water and drained orange strips into a heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring, and simmer gently about 20 minutes. Let cool in the pan.
- Meanwhile, peel oranges entirely, removing all the white pith with a sharp paring knife. Then section the oranges by cutting wedges in between the membranes. Put sections in a shallow dish. Mix orange liqueur with brandy and amaretto. Pour over the sections, cover with plastic and refrigerate until ready to serve, at least several hours.
- To serve, arrange sections in a ring on a plate. Put candied orange peel in the center and sprinkle all with Grand Marnier. Garnish with fresh mint and serve with almond or chocolate biscotti. Serves 4.
BLOOD ORANGE SORBET
The juice of blood oranges makes a dramatic presentation in this dish. Its intense (some might even say ghoulish) color provides a wonderful contrast when paired with pale, thin butter cookies.
- 7 or 8 blood oranges
- Approximately 3/4 cup simple syrup (see note at end of this recipe)
- 2 egg whites
- 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
- Juice oranges leaving some of the pulp for texture. You’ll need a total of 11/2 cups juice and pulp combined.
- In a mixing bowl, combine juice and pulp with 1/2 cup of simple syrup. Add more syrup in 2-ounce increments until you have the sweetness you desire. Remember, when frozen the sorbet will lose some of its sweetness.
- Whip the egg whites in a clean bowl until foamy but with no peaks showing. Swish into the juice mixture with a wire whip.
- Pour into an ice cream maker such as a Donvier or other hand crank model that requires no electricity or salt. Follow directions. Just before the sorbet totally solidifies, add the Grand Marnier. (Alcohol raises the freezing temperature so you shouldn’t put it in until the mixture is almost frozen.) Serve immediately or put into the freezer until you’re ready to serve. Allow to soften slightly before serving.
- If you don’t have an ice cream maker, put the juice mixture into a shallow pan and freeze. When ready to serve, put in a food processor to puree until smooth and serve immediately. Serves 4.
Simple Syrup: Combine 1 cup water and 2 cups sugar in saucepan and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Boil 30-45 seconds until syrup is clear, stirring to make sure sugar is dissolved. Cool and store in the refrigerator. Makes 2 cups.
SPICY CABBAGE WITH MANDARIN ORANGES
The concept of fruit with hearty vegetables like cabbage is something I think should be done more often. Experiment with other combinations.
- 3 mandarin oranges
- 1 tablespoon chile oil or 1 chile pepper sautéed a few minutes in 1
- tablespoon canola oil
- 1 pound red cabbage, shredded
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Kosher salt to taste
- Cayenne pepper to taste
- Peel and section oranges, remove membranes and cut in half crosswise. Set aside.
- Put oil in a wok over medium high eat and add cabbage. Stir a few times, lower heat and cover 5 minutes.
- Combine vinegar and sugar in a cup. Add salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Add to cabbage and toss well. Cook 1 minute. Add mandarin orange segments. Toss and cook 1 minute more. Serves 4.