Kitchen Origins: Oranges
Updated: Feb 15
It's classic which came first scenario, the chicken or the egg? In this case, the color orange or the naming of the fruit orange. You may be surprised to find that along with this question and its place in royalty and tradition, the orange has a fascinating history. And if you want to use this excellent fruit in your cooking, click here for a fantastic Orangeade recipe! Just like our kitchen origins to Vanilla, you'll be shocked by the history of the little citrus fruit on your table that goes beyond just Paddington Bears Marmalade.
Unknown origins: Oranges
The orange has a fascinating story behind it, sure they are widely grown in states such as California and Florida, but that's not where they originated. The orange is dated back to Southeast Asia, where they were raised in India and China. However, these weren't your standard sweet navel oranges; they were a more bitter variety.
After their time in Southeast Asia, they made their way to the Mediterranean, where they were used in Muslim medicine in Spain and North Africa, and the flower was used in perfume.
Savile is where the humble orange truly made a name for itself. With landscape characterized by irrigation for their orange plantations seen to this day, it's a wonder of engineering that shows a love for food.
While the orange made its name in Savile, in modern Europe, St. Dominic, who founded the Dominican Friars, brought oranges to Pope Innocent III in Italy. It is rumored that, to this day, that same orange tree stands in St. Sabina in Rome!
But the oranges expansion doesn't stop there! It made its way to the New World at the hands of Columbus, where he planted orange Trees. The oranges were crucial in a sailor's diet to help prevent *scurvy on their long voyages. It still took until roughly the1500s to bring the orange to Florida.
*scurvy: caused by not having enough vitamin C in your diet for at least three months.
We can also see grand architecture in Europe to house oranges! Great palaces were made with Orangeries, essentially a greenhouse, to help impress visitors. Fires were lit in the winter to prevent the trees from freezing.
Not only was the Orange an important piece in grand palaces, but also in politics. Orange became the color of the House of Orange Nassau in the Netherlands. It became the color symbolizing their fight for independence as well as the color of Protestantism. You can still see it in the flags of Ireland and New York!
In more modern history, during World War Two, soldiers were given vitamins to get a well-rounded, healthy diet. These vitamins tasted so bad they often refused to take them. The orange came in and saved the day and helped to provide nutrition through canned orange juice. In a way, the orange indirectly helped us win the war, and thanks to its innovative packaging, it helped oranges become popular across the United States!
From royal palaces and a religious background to political colors and winning the war. The orange has made its mark on the world, but we know you want to know what came first, the fruit's color or name. You may be happy to learn the fruit was named before the color. Before the 1500s, the color orange was thought to have been called Yellow Red. It wasn't until later the color became orange. So, there you have it! The fruit's name came first, but that's not all Orange offers. Continue reading and learn how to use the orange, the correct orange, in your cooking and baking!
What's so Special About Oranges?
With around 7.78 million tons of oranges produced between 2019-2020 in the U.S. alone, it's no secret that it is one of the most popular citrus fruits. Not only are they tasty to eat, but they have tremendous health benefits. Ships sailors used to bring oranges and orange Seeds with them on long voyages to get the vitamins needed to prevent scurvy.
Rich in Vitamin C, ditch the various pills and vitamin supplements, eat an orange, and drink some orange juice!
Though rich in Vitamins, my favorite part of the orange is its versatility. The orange, if used correctly, will provide a level of sweetness and citrus to cut through any deep flavors. Use it in drinks, with meat, and especially with cranberries, and you'll have an excellent dish. And with a light dish, use an orange to help it stand out against other elements of a dish.
You can utilize every inch of the orange; use the juice inside for cooking, the zest in whip cream and baking, and even the rind to make your house smell incredible. If you have a garbage disposal and your orange is seedless, grind up the peel in your sink, and your entire kitchen will smell like a citrus grove!
Traders Guide: Buying and Using Oranges
There are countless varieties of oranges floating around grocery stores, especially if you visit higher-end stores. Some of which you may never even hear about or see. So to best help you in buying oranges for your home cooking, I've kept the list to five of the most common and essential oranges.
Flavor profile: Sweet & Slightly Bitter
Uses: Snacking, Salads, Use of Zest
Growing season: November to June
Extra: This is the most common orange and is characterized by the belly button-shaped opening at the bottom. With its lack of seeds, this Orange is very easy to use.
Cara Cara Orange
Flavor profile: Very Sweet
Uses: Snacking, Raw Dishes, Juice
Growing season: December to April, usually in California
Extra: This is a cross between a blood orange and a navel orange. You can see this in the darker orange color.
Flavor profile: Juicy, Slightly Sweet, Tart
Uses: Desserts, Sauces, Marmalade
Growing season: November to March
Extra: It is common to see Blood Oranges on a cheese plate for decoration. It's not often eaten alone due to its tart and acidic flavor; it is best to use it in cooking or with food, such as cheese, to balance the taste.
Flavor profile: Sour
Uses: Marmalades or Marinades
Growing season: December to February
Extra: Rarely eaten alone due to its sour flavor, it's most commonly seen in marmalades. This was one of the first oranges brought to Europe and is steeped in a rich history.
Including Tangerines and Clementine
Flavor Profile: Sweet, Honey like Sweetness
Growing season: Tangerine: November to May, Clementine: November to January
Extra: A common misconception, both Tangerines and Clementines aren't actually oranges. The Tangerine is more closely related to a clementine, a cross between a Willow leaf Mandarin and Sweet Orange, rather than an orange itself. These "oranges" are used in snacking due to their loose peel and segmentation.
With the history in mind and the expertise on which orange to use, we wish you luck cooking and baking with this beautiful citrus fruit!
"The Flying Chef"