Sweet oranges have been cultivated for thousands of years. Originally from China, the sweet orange traveled the trade routes to the Middle East, Northern Africa, the Mediterranean, Europe, and the Americas. In 16th century Europe, special greenhouses or orangeries were status symbols. Oranges come into season in the United Sates during winter months and some are still harvested through spring. Traditional oranges like navel and Valencia have orange pulp like the peel. Blood oranges have pulp that range in color from pink to deep ruby red and are very sweet. The Cara Cara orange, a variety originally from Venezuela, has a deep orange peel and pink pulp that is also very sweet.
Average Price: $1.40 per pound
Peak Time: January – May
Tips for Selection and Storage: Choose oranges that are firm and heavy for their size, free of molds or bruises. Skin color varies from greenish to orange to pink to red. Oranges may be stored at room temperature or refrigerated for up to two weeks. The best way to store oranges is loose rather than a plastic bag since if exposed to moisture, they can easily develop mold.
Tips for Preparation: In addition to eating out of hand, oranges add beautiful color to winter salads. They combine well with other fruits, or onions, chilies, spices and herbs, and vinaigrette. They may be used to flavor poultry, seafood, desserts, or sauces. Orange zest is an important garnishing or flavoring agent. When using the peel, wash well and dry before using. When zesting, make sure not to remove too much of the white pith underneath the peel since it is bitter.
Nutritional Highlights: All oranges are excellent sources of vitamin C, vitamin A from carotenoids, folic acid, thiamin, pantothenic acid, potassium, copper, calcium, dietary fiber, and many types of phytochemicals especially flavonoids. Combined with vitamin C, this makes the antioxidant properties of oranges more powerful from the juice. In the peel, other phytonutrients are strong anti-inflammatories and help lower blood cholesterol, as well as fight against various cancers. Research has shown that consuming vitamin C supplements do not provide the same protective benefits from inflammatory diseases like heart disease, stroke and cancer as whole citrus like oranges.
For a recipe for a citrus salad with avocado, pomegranate, and pumpkin seeds, click here.