G’day. Glad to see you. We’ve been waiting for you to call. After all we’re one of the most popular fruits in the world so we knew you’d visit our web site soon. We’ve so much to tell you we’d better get started.
We’re probably the best known citrus fruit and are related to mandarins, lemons, grapefruit, limes and citrons. We’re the size and shape of a tennis ball, with a skin, or rind, of varying thickness. Our glossy, orange rind appears smooth, except for the very small pits scattered over the surface. Our flesh is orange, moist and juicy and divided into segments by thin white membranes; each segment contains hundreds of small juice sacs. In our centre is a white pith and, in some varieties, seeds.
Oranges are available all year round.
We’re normally sold as Valencia and Navel.
We have navel-like structure at one end of our fruit. Our thin, orange-coloured skin is easily peeled from our flesh and our segments are easy to break apart. We’re seedless and very juicy.
We’re very juicy and are best for juicing. Our skin is orange but may stay green in warmer climates. This does not affect taste or juiciness.
We’re highly acidic and therefore sour to the taste, but make excellent marmalade and preserves.
Other oranges available in minor quantities to Australian markets include Blood oranges (only available for a short time in the spring) as well as a range of imported varieties.
Like all citrus, we’re grown on an evergreen tree which is rounded, dense, with shiny, waxy, dark green, oval-shaped leaves and a small leaf wing on the leaf stem. Small white, fragrant flowers are produced which, on fertilisation, produce us.
Our parent tree prefers warm to hot day temperatures and cool nights. A regular supply of water is crucial to ensure top quality oranges. This is why most orange orchards are found near a good water source, i.e. a river. The most suitable soil conditions for growing us are light, sandy, rich (in vitamins and minerals) soil.
The most common methods of growing our parent trees are by grafting or budding. This involves combining a desired orange variety to a type (called a rootstock) that is more disease resistant.
Grafting a rootstock involves choosing the desired seed and growing them in seed beds. After they start to grow (about 4-5 weeks) they are transplanted into nursery rows and allowed to grow for a further 12 months. They are then grafted onto the selected rootstock.
Budding involves selecting a new shoot (budstick with 10-12 buds on it) from a desired variety, carefully removing the buds and inserting them under the bark of selected rootstock and taping them securely in place. This tape is removed about three weeks later. It’s the more popular method because it’s quicker and not as expensive as grafting.
We’re individually hand picked to avoid damaging us or the trees. The pickers put us into bins which are loaded onto trucks and taken to the packing houses. Before we’re sent to market we’re washed and graded (based on size, colour and blemishes).
Those of us which do not meet strict quality assurance regulations are sent to processing factories and are used for juicing, making cordials, and flavourings etc.
Select those of us that are firm, well-coloured and feel heavy for our size.
Store us in a fruit bowl for up to 2 weeks. Refrigerate for extended storage.
Like many other citrus fruits, we probably originated in the region between south-west China and north-west India. We have been cultivated in southern China for several thousand years.
Although both sweet and sour oranges were known to the Romans, there is little evidence that they ever cultivated us. In the Middle Ages the sweet orange was introduced into the Mediterranean basin around 1450. This was as a result of our spread by Arab traders from China across the Middle East to Spain and our introduction to the Ligurian Coast by Genoese traders.
The Portuguese were responsible for bringing better types from China to Europe and it’s from these that today’s superior varieties have been bred. The Portuguese also introduced the sweet orange to Brazil.
Orange trees were bought in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on the way to Australia by the First Fleet and were planted within the first few days of settlement, along with grapes, apples and pears from Cape Town. It was noted soon afterwards that the plants ‘were taking root and establishing themselves in our New World’.
A major orange growing industry soon established itself in the Hawkesbury Valley and production has continued to the present day. We’re now grown in all the major citrus growing areas of the world.
Peeled, we’re best eaten fresh. Take us to school as a snack or add us to salads, fruit salads, breakfast cereal, ice cream, crepes, sauces, cakes, biscuits or squeeze us as a refreshing drink.
Before peeling, grate our rind, which can then be frozen and used as a flavouring. Our peel can also be candied or burnt as incense or in the fireplace. After juicing scrape our shells clean and fill with salad, ice cream or set jelly in them. If we’re slightly warmed in boiling water, or in the microwave, we will be easier to juice.
Try a few of these orange recipe ideas:
Frozen Orange Drink
Cut an orange in quarters. Wrap in aluminium foil and freeze. Take to school as a frozen drink/snack. Very refreshing.
Quick Orange Trifle
Grate the rind of one orange and one lemon and squeeze juice from both plus 2 more oranges. Mix rind and juice with 450g yoghurt and 25g brown sugar. Put a piece of sponge cake in each dessert bowl. Pour over yoghurt mixture and garnish with slices of orange and chopped pecans.
Peel and thickly slice oranges. Sprinkle with brown sugar mixed with cinnamon. Grill until sugar is bubbly. Serve with ice cream or custard sprinkled with glace ginger and roasted almonds.