The Orange Citrus x sinensis is a Citrus tree, and the fruit of this tree. It is a hybrid of cultivated origin, possibly between Pummelo (C. maxima) and Tangerine (C. reticulata). It is a small tree growing to 10m tall, with thorny shoots and evergreen leaves 4-10 cm long. The fruit originated in southeast Asia, either in India, Vietnam or southern China. The original fruit is rather bitter compared to modern cultivars, as is referred to as the sour orange (or alternately, bitter, bigarade or Seville orange). The sour taste is in fact attributed to the slight acidity of the orange's juice.
Cultivation and uses
Oranges are widely grown in warm climates worldwide. The flavors of orange vary from sweet to sour. The fruit is commonly peeled and eaten fresh, or squeezed for its juice. It has a thick bitter rind that is usually discarded, but can be processed into animal feed by removing water using pressure and heat. It can also be used in certain recipes as flavoring or a garnish. The outer-most layer of the rind is grated or thinly veneered with a tool called a zester, to produce orange zest which is popular in cooking because it has a similar flavor to the inner part of the orange. The white part of the rind, pith, is almost always discarded.
All citrus trees are of a single genus, Citrus, and remain largely interbreedable; that is, there is only one "superspecies" which includes lemons and limes as well as oranges. Nevertheless names have been given to the various members of the citrus family, oranges often being referred to as Citrus sinensis and Citrus aurantium. All members of the genus Citrus are considered berries because they have many seeds, are fleshy, soft and derive from a single ovary.
A number of cultivars of orange are now cultivated widely. The sweet orange (Citrus x aurantium) was first grown in Spain, and has become the most popular variety. The sweet orange will grow to different sizes and colors due to local conditions, most commonly with ten carpels (slices) inside.
A single mutation in an orchard of sweet oranges planted at a monastery in 1820 in Brazil led to the navel orange (aka Washington, Riverside or Bahia navel). A single cutting of the original was then transplanted to Riverside, California in 1870, creating a new market worldwide. The mutation caused a 'twin' fruit, with a smaller orange embedded in the outer fruit opposite the stem. From the outside the smaller, undeveloped, twin leaves a human navel-like formation at the top of the fruit. Navel oranges are almost always seedless, and tend to be larger than the sweet orange. They are produced without pollination (parthenocarpy).
The Valencia or Murcia orange is one of the sweet oranges used for juice extraction. It is a late-season fruit. It is a popular variety of orange when the navel oranges are out of season.
The blood orange has streaks of red in the fruit, and when squeezed the juice is often reddish. The mandarin orange is similar, but smaller and sweeter, and the scarlet navel is a variety with the same diploid mutation as the navel orange.
Orange cultivation is a major business, and an important part of the economies of (among others) the US states of Florida and California, many Mediterranean countries, Romania, South Africa, China, and the 'Riverina' district around the Murray River in Australia.
Products made from oranges
Orange juice is one of the commodities traded on the New York commodities market. Brazil is the largest producer of orange juice in the world, followed by Florida.
Orange oil (produced by pressing the peel) is used in surface conditioning of wood furniture, and (along with other citrus oils) in grease removal and as a hand-cleansing agent.
Orange spray (extracted from orange peels and sold commercially) is an extremely efficient cleaning agent which is environmentally friendly and non-toxic.
The orange blossom, which is the state flower of Florida, is traditionally associated with good fortune, and was popular in bridal bouquets and headwreaths for weddings for some time. The petals of orange blossom can also be made into a delicately citrus-scented version of rosewater.
Orange blossom honey (really citrus honey) is produced by putting beehives in the citrus groves during bloom, which also pollinates seeded citrus varieties. Orange blossom honey is highly prized, and tastes much like orange.
Tangerine, Mandarin orange, Kumquat, Orangewater, Lue Gim Gong