What is an orange?
Freshly squeezed orange juice and toast with marmalade is a simple breakfast showcasing the versatility of oranges. Juicy, sweet orange segments add a fragrant touch to salads, and the acidity of oranges helps to cut through the richness of meat in dishes such as Canard à l’orange, a classic French dish of roasted duck drenched in orange sauce.
Oranges originated in China and India about 4,000 years ago. Arab traders took them to Spain, where Seville orange trees are now found in many town squares in southern Spain. The Italians and Portuguese introduced oranges to the Mediterranean region in the late 15th century. Around the same time, Christopher Columbus transported the first orange seeds and seedlings to the Americas.
Seeds from citrus trees (including from orange trees) were carried from Brazil by the First Fleet and were introduced into New South Wales in 1788. Nowadays, orange orchards can be found in the Murray Valley in Victoria, the Sunraysia and Riverina regions of New South Wales, in Queensland, and in the hills near Perth in Western Australia.
In Australia, the most common oranges available are the navel and Valencia. Navel oranges are seedless and are easily identified by the ‘navel’ at one end of the fruit. The skin of the orange has a pebble-like texture and is easy to peel. Navel oranges are sweet and juicy.
Valencia oranges have smoother, firmer and thinner peels than navel oranges. The peel often has a green tinge, which is not a sign of unripe fruit but rather an indicator of the conditions at the time the orange was ripening. Valencias have a sweet flavour and are perfect for juicing. This type of orange also has more seeds than navels.
Seville oranges are usually available in winter and are mainly used to make marmalade and glazes. This type of orange has a thick peel and lots of seeds. Seville oranges are acidic and have a bitter flavour.
Blood oranges are only available for a short period of time each year. They have red flesh that is less acidic than the other types of oranges. Blood oranges have a thin peel that is smooth or slightly pitted and is orange with a red blush.
Why oranges are good to eat
- Oranges are a good source of vitamin C and contain vitamin A (important for growth and development and the maintenance of your immune system) and folate.
- They also contain minerals such as potassium (which helps to regulate blood pressure), manganese (involved in the regulation of brain and nerve function) and magnesium (involved in the regulation of muscle, heart and nerve function and keeping bones strong).
- Oranges contain dietary fibre, which is important for a healthy bowel.
- Energy – 100 g of orange flesh supplies 170 kJ.
How are they grown and harvested?
Orange trees grow best in areas where the days are warm to hot and the nights cool. They prefer a sunny position that is protected from strong winds and they need plenty of water.
Orange trees can grow directly in your garden or dwarf varieties can grow in pots. Orange trees are usually grafted, which involves attaching a cutting from an established tree to the rootstock of a plant that has an established, healthy root system. The trees usually grow to between 5 and 10 m after about 25 years. The trees have dark green, waxy leaves and they produce small, white fragrant flowers. To avoid damaging the fruit and the trees, oranges are usually harvested by hand, but in some parts of the world mechanical harvesters are used to shake the tree and dislodge the fruit.
Choose oranges that are firm, heavy and have glossy skin. Avoid those that are soft or have bruises or spots or are wrinkled.
How to store and keep oranges
Store oranges at room temperature. They will stay fresh for up to two weeks. Oranges last longer if you store them in your fridge.
How to use
- Serve a delicious orange ricotta tart – whiz ricotta, mascarpone cheese and orange juice in a food processor and add sugar, flour, egg yolks, whisked egg whites and orange zest, and then pour into shortcrust pastry case, bake and serve with orange segments.
- Make a simple salad – combine orange segments with chopped fennel, chopped chives and orange zest, then drizzle with a wholegrain mustard, oil and orange juice dressing, and serve alongside cooked prawns or other seafood.
- Try Moroccan chicken – marinate chicken strips in orange juice, orange zest and Moroccan spices and then pan-fry the chicken, add orange segments and serve with cous cous, yoghurt and freshly shredded mint.
- Cook an impressive starter – make a dressing of orange juice and zest, oil, grated ginger, lemongrass, chopped chilli, Thai basil and orange segments, then drizzle over seared scallops and sprinkle with black sesame seeds.
This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
Better Health Channel
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