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I am no farmer but I am a farmer’s wife and since my husband started cultivating oranges five years ago have picked up a few facts about this delicious, fresh tasting fruit. I have also become practised at using oranges at home and hope to encourage you to do the same. Enjoy!
What is an orange?
An orange is a citrus fruit which is grown on an evergreen tree. The tree has glossy leaves of dark green which contrast with the tiny, white, sweet-scented orange blossom. Oranges come in many varieties and they are all good for us. Although their reputation is based on their high vitamin C content (an average orange of about 180gm supplies us with approximately two day’s supply of vitamin C), it is not just vitamin C that makes oranges famous; they are also an excellent source of fiber, beta-carotene and other carotenoids.
What is so important about beta-carotene?
Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A by the body. Since vitamin A aids eye health, the immune system, skin and mucus-membranes, it prevents problems in these areas of health before they begin. What is more, beta-carotene is an antioxidant and thereby protects the body from free radicals that can cause damage to cells through oxidation.
It is now thought that heart disease and cancer are just two chronic illnesses that can be prevented through increased antioxidants in a healthy diet.
Foods that contain a lot of beta-carotene are usually yellow or orange in color. Such a food is the orange, others are peppers, carrots, and squash. It is these foods that are now recommended due to population based studies; four or more daily servings of such foods may reduce your risk of developing cancer and heart disease. That being the case, an orange a day seems to be a clever health investment!
Where did oranges originate?
It is understood that oranges originated in south-west China and north-west India and they have certainly been cultivated in China for thousands of years. As far back as 2200 B.C. references to oranges can be seen in ancient Chinese manuscripts.
The Romans certainly knew of oranges but do not seem to have cultivated them. In the 11th century Persian oranges were cultivated but were very sour, however both sweet and sour oranges were found in the Mediterranean by about 1450. This was largely due to Arab traders who journeyed to China, throughout the Middle East and into Spain.
According to Gallesio Mas'ûdi oranges were brought from India after the year 300 A.H (922 A.D.), and were first planted in Oman and from there spread to Iraq, Syria, Palestine, and Egypt. However Tolkowski cites other Arab writers’ views that the sour orange was already growing there before that time and it is known that cultivation of citrus fruits took place throughout the Muslim world. There are several references to oranges in Arabic literature and two well-known historians, Abd-ul Feda and Avicenna both include recipes for the use of citrus fruits in their writings. Further mention of Arangus was made by Albertus Magnus in the thirteenth century and with it a description of the fruit and the tree; this description seems to be the first use of the name coupled with Citrus aurantium, the sour orange.
It was Christopher Columbus who transported the first oranges to America and early explorers planted them in Florida in the first half of the sixteenth century. Traders planted oranges along trade routes
An improvement in the types of oranges available in Europe was due to the Portuguese; they also introduced oranges into Brazil and after that the trees were widely cultivated throughout the world where the climate permitted.
Make the Most of Your Oranges!
How can oranges help us to stay healthy?
It is recommended that oranges be included in nutrition plans for people suffering from diabetes because they are such a good source of potassium, calcium and magnesium. The potassium assists the kidneys in maintaining the balance of water in the body and maintain the health of muscles and nerves whereas calcium and magnesium strengthen bones and help the functioning of body tissues.
Orange pith and peel are rich in pectin and flavonoids which enhance the power of vitamin C, prevent excessive inflammation and protect the body from oxygen damage, also helping immunity against colds. Finally, the natural sugars, glucose, fructose and sucrose, found in oranges give them their deliciously sweet flavor.
Oranges―the stuff of myths
It is thought possible that the goddesses of the evening, the Hesperides, were actually guarding a tree of oranges rather than apples; it seems that oranges were originally described as golden apples.
Citrus trees have been associated with the qualities of eternal love, happiness, holiness, fruitfulness and even chastity. The beautiful blossom and sweet perfume of these trees have encouraged kings and queens to grow gardens entirely of citrus fruits.
Did you know?
Oranges come from a single ovary, they are soft and fleshy and contain many seeds which we call pips. This places them among the fruits that we term berries.
Eighty percent of oranges are used for juice, extracts and preserves. The rest is sold as whole fruit, ripe for eating.
The cosmetic industry makes use of the bergamot orange as a source of oil.
The word orange is actually derived from the sanskrit 'naranga' which means fragrant, so it is not named for its colour. In fact if you suspect an orange to be overly bright you may be looking at one which has been dyed and is not necessarily of good quality.
How many varieties of oranges are there?
Oranges are part of a huge family of citrus fruits which incorporates other fruits such as lemons, limes, and grapefruits. Although there are numerous varieties of orange they are divided into Citrus sinensis, which is the variety sweet oranges are derived from, and Citrus aurantium from which we get bitter oranges.
In 1820, in a monastery garden in Brazil, a mutation occurred which led to the naval orange. In 1870 a cutting of this orange was planted at Riverside and caused the spread of the naval orange. The naval orange is so called because there is a form underneath the fruit which looks like a naval. Characteristically the naval orange has a tiny fruit growing inside just beneath the thick peel. The naval orange is usually seedless, and is very sweet.
Oranges of an intensely bitter variety are the Seville oranges. The peel of these oranges is deep orange in colour and has none of the smoothness of sweeter oranges. The whole orange is often cut up and commonly used for marmalade either alone or with a combination of other citrus fruit
Don't Just Eat Them!
Oranges can be used in many ways to make life a little sweeter and more fragrant. Throughout history they have been valued as a means of warding of the bad smells of the street and unwashed people. Nell Gwyn, the mistress of England's King Charles II, was reputed to have sold oranges at the theatre in Drury Lane before beginning her career as an actress. Pomanders in the form of oranges, perhaps studded with cloves, were carried on a chain or on a girdle, they were also hung in rooms to freshen the air, and clothes. This is one of the uses we can make of oranges today and it is especially pleasant if prepared for hanging in the house prior to Christmas. To make a simple festive pomander you will need an orange, cloves, cinnamon, ribbon, sticky tape, pins, toothpicks and a paper bag.
Squeeze the orange to slightly soften the skin and then use the sticky tape to divide the orange into quarters. Make holes in the peel using the cocktail stick and push in cloves in a symmetrical pattern, don't bunch them to close to each other because the orange will shrink as it dries. Roll the orange in cinnamon and place into the paper bag. Close the bag and place the orange in a warm dry place for a few weeks until it has dried out.
Finally remove the sticky tape and wrap ribbon around the pomander leaving a loop to use to hang it up. Secure the ribbon with pins. If preferred you can use several oranges and lay them in a basket to place on a table. You might like to attach a sprig of holly, or a silver bell to give an even more festive note.
A bowl of mandarin oranges placed on a coffee table adds brightness and colour to your home at a time of year when flowers are scarce.
The aroma of oranges, cinnamon, cloves and freshly grated ginger are warm and comforting; boil some up and the smell will pervade the house making it cheerful and welcoming as gusty autumn winds blow us into chill winter. Drink it as a means of raising your immunity against colds or simply because it tastes good.
Another tip to make winter evenings cosier is to use dried orange peel as kindling for the fire or even as part of your barbecue fuel. The oils in the peel keep it burning and give off a citrus scent.
Beauty tips using oranges.
Gentler than lemon but still an astringent, a few drops of chilled orange juice can help tighten open pores. Use a cotton bud as a wand, soak it in the juice and then dab at the area.
Orange juice and honey can be mixed together and then applied to the face; careful though, you really only need a spoonful of each since it easily spreads. Allow it to dry and you will feel smooth-skinned and refreshed when you rinse it off.
Orange Breakfast Rolls
- In a large mixing bowl, rub the butter into the flour and salt; stir in the yeast, sugar, spices, and orange peel.
- Reserving a little beaten egg to use as a glaze, stir in the warmed milk and egg.
- Reserve a tablespoonful of the juice for icing. Add the rest of the juice. Use dough hooks or knead together the mixture until it forms an elastic dough texture. If necessary add more flour to achieve the correct consistency.
- Cover the dough with a damp tea-towel and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size.
- Knock back and shape into small breakfast rolls. Place the rolls on a greased baking tray. Brush with beaten egg. Cover with a damp tea-towel and leave for approximately 15 minutes. |Pre-heat the oven.
- Remove the tea-towel and place high in a hot oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Remove from the oven when golden in colour. Leave on a wire rack to cool.
- Stir icing sugar into the remaining orange juice and ice the rolls by dripping the icing over them with a spoon.
- Serve with butter and honey.
- 400 gm plain flour
- 11/2 glasses freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 cup grated orange peel
- 2 beaten eggs
- 3 teaspoons dried yeast
- 50 gm sugar
- 75 gm butter
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 90 ml warm milk
- 1 teaspoon each saffron, cinnamon, nutmeg
- Approx. 125 gm Icing sugar