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The Fruit Bowl: Oranges

November 7, 2010

For the sake of this entry I am going to break oranges into two categories, the true oranges (Citrus x sinensis) and the mandarin oranges (Citrus reticulata).

Some Orange Background:

With help from Wikipedia

The orange:

specifically, the sweet orange—is the citrus Citrus × ​sinensis (syn. Citrus aurantium L. var. dulcis L., or Citrus aurantium Risso) and its fruit. The orange is a hybrid of ancient cultivated origin, possibly between pomelo (Citrus maxima) and mandarin (Citrus reticulata).

Although every orange is peelable, the orange is infinitely less peelable than the mandarin.  I hate the white stuff inside the peel of the orange, called pith, so I don’t like my regular oranges peeled.  Many people don’t mind the pith at all.  For them, peeled navel oranges are great.  For me, I like them cut.

There are 3 main varieties of Orange:

  • Blood Orange The blood orange is a darker orange to red-fleshed orange that has been popular for numerous years in Europe. It has now gained popularity in the US, and there are blood orange crops grown in Florida and San Diego. The exterior of theblood orange is a rose-tinted orange color. Depending upon variety, the skin color may be lighter or darker. The surprise comes when one cuts open the orange to reveal its pink to dark crimson flesh.  There are several varieties of the blood orange. These are the Tarocco, the Sanguinello, and the Moro. Of these, the Tarocco has the greatest popularity in Europe and is grown primarily in Italy. It may not always have the highest red coloring however, and some Tarocco blood oranges resemble more traditional oranges. However, in taste the Tarocco is often considered superior to the other varieties.  The blood orange is also celebrated for its taste. A ripe blood orange is very sweet and mellow. Some ascribe subtle flavoring hints of raspberry and strawberry to the orange. However, others simply describe the blood orange as identical in taste to a sweet regular orange.  These oranges are definitely taste pleasers, and are exceptional in presentation for a variety of dishes. An orangesalad made with blood oranges and “orange” oranges can be a beautiful dish. Orange juice made with the blood orangeis a lovely color and heightens the drama of a smoothie or a mimosa.
  • Valencia also known as “Summer” Oranges, are in season from February through October, with peak supplies in May, June and July.  Characteristics include thinner skins. They are sweet, juicy, with some seeds and are excellent for juicing and eating. Valencia oranges are grown in California and Arizona.
  • Navel Navel oranges are in season November through May.  They are considered the finest “eating oranges” in the world.   They are sweet and juicy, with only an occasional seed. Easy to peel, they are outstanding for eating.  Navels have a small navel formation at the blossom end and are known as “winter oranges.”

The Mandarin orange

also known as the mandarin or mandarine (both lower-case), is a small citrus tree (Citrus reticulata) with fruit resembling other oranges. The fruit is oblate rather than spherical. Mandarin oranges are usually eaten plain or in fruit salads. Specifically reddish-orange mandarin cultivars can be marketed as tangerines, but this is not a botanical classification.

There are 5 main varieties of mandarin:

  • Satsuma seedless variety, of which there are over 200 cultivars, such as Owari and mikan; the source of most canned mandarins, and growing in popularity as a fresh fruit in the US for its ease of consumption
  • Celmentinebecoming the most important commercial Mandarin orange form, have displaced mikans in many markets
  • Tangerine sometimes known as a “Christmas orange”, as its peak season is December; a common gift for children to receive in their Christmas stockings.
  • Tangor also called the temple orange, a cross between the Mandarin orange and the common sweet orange; its thick rind is easy to peel and its bright orange pulp is sour-sweet and full-flavored
  • Pixie or Baby Honey a small easy to peel mandarin that is available from October to January.

There are 100s of cultivars of the varieties listed above, so don’t be surprised to find many different names of oranges in the produce department.  Remember if the fruit is not round it is probably a mandarin cultivar and if it has a navel it is a navel orange cultivar.

Selecting and Storing Oranges

I love Mandarin Oranges.  I start buying Japanese and Chinese Mandarins by the box in late November and I don’t stop until January.  I love these things.  When buying mandarins by the box, check the whole box.  At the local IGA, the check out person goes through every box and pulls out any questionable oranges and replaces them with good ones from another box.  You should do the same if your store doesn’t offer this service.  As well, you can buy mandarins in bulk.  When you are selecting mandarins, don’t hesitate to pick ones with a loose skin, these are the easiest to peel.   I store mine in the fridge when I can.  I love my oranges cold.  They are great to leave out on the counter too and that has the added advantage of keeping them visible.  Mandarins are the perfect finger good.  Pack them in lunches and snacks, they don’t even need to be washed.  They are easy to pull apart and eat.  Satsumas are increasingly available all year round, but I am not a huge fan of the out of season ones.  With any fruit, get to know what the stores you frequent offer and how fresh and tasty their selection is.  Some stores never have good fruit but even the best stores have a fruit or two that is terrible.  Feel free to take bad produce back to the store and use this opportunity to talk to the produce manager.  You can find out a lot about the best and freshest fruits they sell from the manager.

My favourite true orange is the navel orange.  These are the ones I remember from halftime at soccer games as a kid.  When you cut a navel orange into quarters it is such a refreshing snack.  When picking an orange pick the heaviest ones for their size.  These are the juiciest.  The only problem I have ever had with oranges is that sometimes they are dried out inside.  Rinse the oranges before you set them out to eat incase they have come into contact with anything.  You can store them on the counter in your fruit bowl but they are best stored in your fruit hamper in your fridge.  The oranges can be stored for up to a month in the fridge.

A great idea is to move the fruit from your crisper to your fruit bowl on a near daily basis, so it is clear to see and easy to reach yet kept as fresh as possible.  Cut the oranges into quarters and put in bags for lunches and snacks.  This is an excellent part of any meal or can be eaten for desert.

You would be shocked at how effective fruit can be at killing your desert cravings.  Additionally oranges can be used in tons of recipes including salads.

Apples and Oranges make great staples for any fruit bowl.  Get some of each and next time you are craving something go for one of these refreshing and filling snacks.

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