Oranges

For many centuries, oranges were a rare commodity. They were usually made into preserves, used for a table centerpiece or decoration, or presented to guests as a luxury gift. Not so today. Oranges and other citrus fruit such as lemons, limes, grapefruit and tangerines are available year round for all to enjoy. But their bright colour and boost of vitamin C are especially welcome in winter.

Oranges

Nutrition Notes

Oranges are famous for vitamin C. In fact, one large orange supplies a full day's worth of the nutrient, which is critical for maintaining a healthy immune system.  Vitamin C also helps keep the cartilage in your joints strong helping to reduce the likelihood of developing osteoarthritis in the hip or knee.  And of course, vitamin C has strong antioxidant effects in the body, protecting cells and body tissues from oxidative stress.

There are many more reasons why you should make a point of including this juicy, sweet fruit in your diet. An orange also contains generous amounts of folate, potassium and thiamin as well as some calcium, magnesium and fibre.

There's more. Oranges also contain unique phytochemicals that scientists believe play an important role the fruits' ability to fight disease. One orange contains almost two hundred different phytochemicals! Of particular interest are compounds called limonoids and flavonones, which are found in orange peel and are readily absorbed and utilized by the body.

A diet rich in citrus fruit has been linked with protection from heart disease, stroke, digestive tract cancers, lung cancer, colon cancer and pancreatic cancer. What's more, oranges may also help ward off other health problems associated with aging including arthritis, macular degeneration, cataracts and cognitive impairment. 

Nutrient information per 1 medium orange (2-5/8" diameter):

Calories

69

Carbohydrate

17 g

Fibre

3.6 g

Fat

0 g

Thiamin (vitamin B1)

0.15 mg

Vitamin C

70 mg

Folate

39 mcg

Calcium

52 mg

Potassium

237 mg

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2012. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 25.

Varieties

There are two basic types of oranges: sweet and bitter or sour. Sweet oranges are valued for their sweet eating and for their juice. In general, they're large and have skins that are often difficult to remove. They may have seeds or be seedless. Bitter oranges are too sour and harsh to be eaten raw. Instead, you'll find bitter oranges in things like marmalade.

The peel of bitter oranges is candied and their essential oils, used to flavor foods and liqueurs. Here are some of the sweet orange varieties you might find in the supermarket.

  • Navel oranges are easy to identify - they're the ones with the button formation opposite their stem end. Navel oranges are seedless, have a thick skin, and their flesh is juicy and sweet. Navel oranges are great for making juice, for fruit salads and for snacking (they peel and segment easily).
  • Valencia oranges are small to medium sized and may have a few seeds. They are usually thin-skinned are hard to peel. But once peeled, Valencia oranges have a flesh that is juicy and sweet. The Valencia orange is well suited for making juice because its flesh contains a great amount of juice and its thin skin makes it is easy to squeeze. It's also a good eating orange and contains a few or no seeds.
  • Blood oranges have a bright red to deep maroon interior colour (thanks to phytochemicals called anthocyanins) and an orange-red skin. Their distinctive flavour is sweeter than other varieties of oranges, providing a stronger citrus flavor that is less acidic. They can be used like any other orange but are best used when color is important. They tend to be small in size, fairly easy to peel and have few, if any, seeds.
  • Seville oranges are bitter-tasting with a flattened appearance and rough, thick skin. The flesh contains a lot of seeds. Seville oranges are generally not eaten out-of-hand but are more often used for cooking because of their strong orange flavor. They're popular for making marmalades, jellies, and jams, and well suited for marinades. They are mostly grown in the Mediterranean regions and have a short growing season so they are not always readily available.
  • Minneola tangelos are easily spotted by the knob-like formation at their stem end. This fruit has a deep red-orange exterior colour and a tart-sweet flavour. Minneolas peel very easily, and have few if any seeds.
  • Mandarin oranges are loose skinned and easy to peel. A mandarin's size, shape, colour and flavour will vary with the variety. In general mandarins are sweet tasting and juicy.
  • Tangerines are a subgroup of mandarins: they are a cross between mandarins and the bitter orange. There are many different varieties of tangerines; most are smaller in size than an orange and have a slightly flattened shape. Their skins are generally deep reddish-orange, slightly textured, loose fitting, and easy to peel. They contain 8 to 15 segments, which are easily separated.

Buying

Choose fruit that are shiny and heavy for their size, with no mold or soft, spongy spots. Their skin should be smooth rather than deeply pitted. As a rule, thin-skinned oranges are juicier than thick-skinned varieties. Small-to-medium sized fruits are also sweeter than the large oranges.

Note that skin color is not a good guide to quality. Oranges can be artificially colored with a vegetable dye to improve appearance. Oranges may also show traces of green even though they are ripe.

Storing

Citrus fruit can be stored at room temperature for one week if kept out of direct sunlight. When stored at room temperature, citrus fruit will be juicier than if kept in the fridge. However, if you are not planning to use the fruit within one week of purchase, store citrus fruit in the refrigerator crisper for two to three weeks. 

If storing citrus fruit in a plastic bag, make sure the bag is perforated to allow air circulation.

Preparing

Just peel, then section, cut or juice and enjoy!  Or, to make citrus zest, remove the colored part of the rind only (avoid the white pith). For strips of citrus peel, use a vegetable peeler. For grated zest, try using a rasp-like Microplane zester, which results in fluffier zest.

Juicing: Cut unpeeled oranges in half crosswise and squeeze on a juice reamer. Or follow juicer instructions.

Segments: Peel orange and divide into segments. Or halve unpeeled oranges crosswise and then cut each half into thirds. This way the flesh can be eaten right from the peel.

Orange Zest and Strips: Scrub oranges under running warm water with a vegetable brush.

For zest: use a flat grater - rub the surface of the fruit back and forth on the fine grid 2-3 times; or use a zester (readily available at cookware stores) - scrape the zester against the surface of the fruit. Be careful not to remove any of the bitter white pith that lies below the peel.

For strips: Use a vegetable peeler or small paring knife to carefully remove the peel leaving the bitter white pith behind. The citrus peel strips can then be finely julienned with a chef's knife for making candied orange peel, garnishing or to flavor dishes and sugar syrup.

Candied Orange Peel: In a small pan gently heat 2 tablespoons (30 g) granulated sugar and 2 tablespoons water until the sugar is dissolved. Add blanched julienne of 1 orange. Simmer until all the water has evaporated and the julienne is transparent, about 8-10 minutes. Carefully lift the orange julienne out with a slotted spoon. It can then be stored in an airtight container for 2 days before using.

Eating

Oranges are incredibly versatile. They can be eaten as snacks or desserts, juiced, grilled, pureed or added to myriad dishes from chicken to soup. They also come with their own protective package -- perfect for the lunch bag, briefcase or knapsack.

Breakfast

  • Start the day with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.
  • Include orange flesh or juice in muffin and quick bread recipes. Try this recipe!
  • Add orange segments to your favourite fruit salad.
  • Enjoy a smoothies made with orange segments or freshly squeeze orange juice. Get a recipe!
  • Mix orange segments with low-fat yogurt.

Lunch

  • Toss orange segments into a green or spinach salads. The vitamin C will help your body absorb more iron from the greens.
  • Add orange segments to bean and lentil salads with chickpeas for a nutrient boost and a dash of color.
  • Use freshly squeezed orange juice in vinaigrettes and other salad dressings. Add finely grated orange peel for disease-fighting flavonones and limonoids.
  • Add orange segments to canned fruit cocktail.
  • Slice oranges horizontally and then in half to make easy-to-eat half moons.
  • Top low-fat cottage cheese with orange segments and toasted walnuts. Drizzle with a little bit of orange juice.

Dinner

  • Toss orange segments into sweet and sour stir-fries. Click here for a recipe.
  • Use orange juice as a glaze for chicken, beef or fish.
  • Cook rice in orange juice for a tropical twist on an old favorite.
  • Include orange segments in fruit compotes to be spooned over frozen yogurt for a fast and flavorful dessert.
  • Orange-chocolate mousse makes an elegant dessert for special occasions.
  • Top birthday and celebration cakes with candied orange peel.

Snacks

  • Unpeel an orange and enjoy nature at its best.
  • Skewer orange segments, chunks of cantaloupe, grapes, strawberries and pineapple for festive fruit kabobs. Serve with orange yogurt dip. Try my Grilled Fruit Kababs.

More Information

The Cook's Thesaurus - Citrus

Dole

Florida Citrus

Sunkist

The World's Healthiest Foods

Did you know?

  • Citrus oil can be extracted from the orange by rubbing the fruit with sugar cubes. The sugar absorbs the oil. The sugar can then be crushed or dissolved and used as a flavoring.
  • Two to four medium sized oranges will give you about 1 cup of juice; one medium sized orange will yield about 4 teaspoons of grated zest.