Oranges are round citrus fruits with finely-textured skins and pulpy flesh that are, unsurprisingly, orange in colour!
The skin can vary in thickness from very thin to very thick, which can be vital in the production of marmalade and they can be anything up to four inches in diameter.
Juicy and sweet, the orange is renowned for its concentration of vitamin C and adds a special tang to many recipes. But it is their juice that is most associated with good health, having a reputation for being an integral part of a healthy breakfast.
It is thought that the orange originated in China, where it is widely believed they were being cultivated as far back as 2,500 BC, and from there they spread to Indonesia and then to India.
It is thought that Italian and Portuguese merchants brought orange trees into the Mediterranean region between the late 15th and early 16th centuries.
Before the 20th century, oranges were horrendously expensive in Europe and therefore reserved for special occasions, such as Easter and Christmas but, once more efficient means of transportation were developed and more efficient methods for utilising the orange and its by-products more effectively the price dropped like an under-beaten Christmas pudding!
One of the twenty most popular fruits in the world they do not necessarily have to have a bright orange colour to be good! The modern ‘uniform’ colour of non-organic oranges may be due to injection of Citrus Red Number 2 (an artificial dye) into their skins at the level of 2 parts per million. Whether organic or not, oranges that are partially green or have brown shadowing may be just as ripe and tasty as those that are solid orange in colour.
In general, oranges that are smaller will be juicier than those that are larger in size, as will those that feature thinner skins. They are available from winter to summer with some seasonal variations according to variety.
Oranges should be stored at room temperature and will generally last for two to three weeks at optimum quality, juiciness and vitamin content and they are best stored loose rather than wrapped.
Beyond this, the juice and zest can also be stored for later use. Freshly squeezed will freeze well and when dried the zest will keep for months in an airtight container.
And contrary to popular belief, well populist belief anyway, they have nothing whatsoever to do with the Princes of Orange, four generations of whom can be seen here, Williams I, II and III with, quite naturally, William and Maurice (don’t ask me!) dated around 1622.
A Dutch Protestant, William III ruled in England between 1689 and 1702 and was in fact a Prince of Orange, see map below, whose grandfather had established the state of The Netherlands in the mid 16th century.
To those interested in such things there are two statues of William that I am aware of, one in George Square, Bristol while the other is in the market square of a town very close to my heart, Petersfield in Hampshire.
The clippings come from a magazine article from the mid-late thirties on the goodness of the ubiquitous orange fruit!