With back-to-school right around the corner, oranges are the perfect fruit to brag about. That’s because oranges one of the most popular fruits served for school lunch and they’re easy to toss in a gym bag or back pack for after school. Oranges are available year round.
A Little History- Not all Oranges are Created Equal
Native to Asia, oranges were first introduced to the Americas, specifically Haiti, by Columbus in 1493. They were later introduced to Central America, then Florida, followed by Arizona, Hawaii and finally California. Today, Florida, California and Brazil are known for their orange production.
An estimated 75% of all oranges in the United States are grown in Florida. Yet if you visit Florida and purchase oranges at a super market, you’ll likely see California or another country of origin on the sticker. That’s because most oranges grown in Florida and Brazil are for processing. According to Ed Pines, a citrus grower from Pines Ranch, Inc. in Florida, only ~3% of Florida oranges are used in the fresh market. The majority of oranges grown in Florida are squeezed to make juice. And it doesn’t stop there. Oils are extracted from the peel and used for flavors, scents, cleaners and solvents. Citrus pulp pellets may be made into cattle feed. Most of the orange crop grown in California, on the other hand, is used as table fruit.
There are many different varieties of oranges, but the two most commonly consumed as table fruit are Naval and Valencias.
Oranges, like other citrus fruits, are loaded with Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that works to protect and heal cells, aid in wound healing, promote healthy gums and boost the immune system. Oranges also contain a variety of other vitamins, such as Thiamin, Folate and Vitamin B6 and contain a good amount of the minerals potassium, magnesium and calcium.
1 medium orange provides:~80 calories 3 grams of fiber 130% of the RDA for Vitamin C ~5% potassium needs
Oranges provide other beneficial phytonutrients too. Among them are the flavonoids hesperetin, naringin, naringenin and limonoids, which are currently being studied for their ability to maintain a healthy immune system and their potentially beneficial role in cancer treatment.
Oranges will not continue to ripen after being picked and are therefore harvested when they reach their peak level of sweetness. You may find a touch of green on the outside of some oranges. According to the Florida Department of Citrus, that hint of green could have been cause by temperature or a natural process known as re-greening, which you can read more about here. It has nothing to do with the ripeness of the fruit inside.
Fresh oranges will last longer if they are stored in the refrigerator but they can be stored in a cool, dry place for four to five days.
Ways to Enjoy Oranges
- Oranges pack and travel well. Take a whole orange with you for a nutritional boost or pre-peel the orange and separate the fruit into wedges to eat on the go
- Juice your fresh orange. For the best nutritional value and taste, juice only enough navel oranges to drink and enjoy right away
- Make an orange sauce. Squeeze an orange and use the juice in combination with other ingredients to make a sauce. The orange flavor pairs well with popular protein picks such as chicken, whitefish and seafood
- Peel an orange and toss the sections into pancakes or waffles for a natural sweetness. No syrup needed.
- Make orange marmalade using fresh oranges
- Make an orange smoothie or puree oranges and mix into yogurt. Some smoothie recipes call for orange juice and others suggest using a whole orange. Oranges also taste great paired with other fruits in smoothies.
*Photo credits to the Florida Department of Citrus