Hello my dear readers,
Are you ready for another Monday?
From when I was a little girl, for me the fruit of December was the orange 🍊
Most of the time, the fruits that we used to have at home in winter time were the apples. But in December, I remember my parents used to receive as a Christmas gift from their work place, oranges or portocale how we call them in Romanian 🍊 and I simply grew up loving them 😋
Since it begins to look a lot like Christmas these days, let’s discover this bright orange fruit rich in vitamin C.
The orange is a precious citrus fruit belonging to the Rutaceae family, attractive in color and fragrance, but the orange is even more precious due to the high content of vitamin C.
The sweet orange is not a wild fruit, it is a hybrid between pomelo, or known as “Chinese grapefruit” which is pale green or yellow, and mandarin, and it is the winter fruit that enriches our meals in the cold months.
It seems that the home of sweet orange is China, from which it was imported into Europe. It is also true that some ancient Roman texts speak of oranges already in the first century; it was cultivated in Sicily and was called melarancia, which would lead to think that the fruit had reached Europe by land from Arab cultivation.
What is then the truth about the origin of the orange? Both theories could be correct. Probably the orange tree really came to Europe via the Silk Road, but then the cultivation only established itself in the hot Sicily, where it stopped.
There are a few legends around oranges. A beautiful legend also tells that the sweet orange plant that is found in Rome, in the cloister of the convent of Santa Sabina all’Aventino, would have been brought and planted by San Domenico in about 1220. The legend does not specify whether the saint had brought the plant from Portugal or Sicily, where it had come after the Arab-Berber conquest.
Shortly after, the sweet orange quickly was adopted as an edible fruit and it was considered a luxury fruit and wealthy people grew oranges in private conservatories. Even at Versailles, potted orange trees in solid silver tubs were placed throughout the rooms of the palace, allowing year-round cultivation of the fruit.
Spanish and French explorers introduced the sweet orange also into the American continent.
Sweet orange is the most cultivated citrus in the world, thanks to its ability to adapt to different environmental conditions, favored by the large number of cultivars and clones.
The orange trees are widely grown in tropical and subtropical climates, with Brazil producing 24% of the world total, followed by China, India and the United States.
The orange tree is an evergreen, flowering tree, with an average height of 9 to 10 m (30 to 33 ft), although some very old specimens can reach 15 m (49 ft). Like most citrus plants, oranges do well under moderate temperatures between 15.5 and 29 °C (59.9 and 84.2 °F) and require considerable amounts of sunshine and water, doesn’t like the temperature variation between day and night or summer and winter, and are very sensitive to frost.
It is possible to grow orange trees directly from seeds. I remember I always planted the seeds that I used to find in the oranges when I was little, and to my surprise they always used to germinate, but I never managed to actually grow an orange tree.
Did you know?
There are over 600 varieties of oranges worldwide, from which the most known are Valencia, Navel and blood oranges and about 85% of all oranges produced are used for juice.
Tarocco, which is my favourite, is a variety of blood oranges, characterised by its dark red colour, developed and cultivated in Sicily.
Oranges are commonly peeled and eaten fresh or squeezed for juice but are also used in certain recipes as a food flavoring or garnish.
Marmalade is also made using the entire orange fruit and is my favourite because is less sweet.
The peel of the orange we grate it thinly and use it and know it as orange zest so much used in sweets but also savoury dishes.
Sweet, juicy oranges make a delicious and healthy snack or addition to our meal.
You can keep the oranges at home for about one month, optimally stored loosely in an open or perforated plastic bag.
Rich in vitamin C, a potent antioxidant, a whole orange contains only about 60 calories and has no fat, cholesterol or sodium and provides us with all the daily requirement of vitamin C.
Oranges have many health benefits: may boost your immune system to everyday viruses and infections such as the common cold, give you better skin, and even help improve your health heart and cholesterol levels. Beside this, some evidence suggests that eating oranges may help reduce the risk of respiratory diseases, certain cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcers and kidney stones.
Some research even suggests that the vitamin C in oranges may be linked with a lower risk of colon cancer.
The fiber in oranges may help lower blood sugar levels in people with type 1 diabetes and improve blood sugar, lipids and insulin levels in people with type 2 diabetes, so much so that the oranges, along with other citrus fruits, are considered as a “superfood” for people with diabetes.
Although not as juicy or tasty as the flesh, orange peel is edible and has significant contents of vitamin C, dietary fiber, total polyphenols, carotenoids, limonene and dietary minerals, such as potassium and magnesium.
Orange juice is also packed with nutrients but doesn’t contain the fiber found in the orange pith, the white substance between the peel and the flesh and it may contain too many calories than when simply eating an orange.
Oranges have a lot of benefits but as with all our foods, is always better to not exaggerate with its consumption. If eaten in excess, the greater fiber content can affect digestion, causing abdominal cramps, and could also lead to diarrhea or because they are a high-acid food, can contribute to heartburn, especially for those who already suffering from heartburn regularly.
Do you like oranges? Do you eat them fresh or just drink the orange juice?
One of the things that is never missing from my breakfast is the orange juice and pretty often I also simply peel and eat it as it is 😉
This it will be my last post from Discovering our food series for this year. Thank you all for reading and for your support.
As you probably have noticed, every month I have tried to cover seasonal aromatic herbs, vegetables and fruits.
I would love to know what do you think of these kind of posts?
Do you like them?
Do you find them boring or do you find them informative? Are they too short or too long?
Do you think is useful to know more about our food?
What would you like me to cover more about our amazing food?
Let me know in the comments below and I would be more than happy to start my research.
In the meantime, join me next time and let’s discover São Paulo, the biggest orange producer region in Brazil.
And if you would like to discover more about our food, you may check my previous posts.
Bye bye for now! Have a great week!