Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis)

General info about Fruit

The orange is unknown in the wild state; is assumed to have originated in southern China, northeastern India, and perhaps southeastern Asia (formerly Indochina). It was carried to the Mediterranean area possibly by Italian traders after 1450 or by Portuguese navigators around 1500. Up to that era, citrus fruits were valued by Europeans mainly for medicinal purposes, but the orange was quickly adopted as a luscious fruit and wealthy persons grew it in private conservatories, called orangeries. By 1646 it had been much publicized and was well known.
Spaniards undoubtedly introduced the sweet orange into South America and Mexico in the mid-1500’s, and probably the French took it to Louisiana.
It was from New Orleans that seeds were obtained and distributed in Florida about 1872 and many orange groves were established by grafting the sweet orange onto sour orange rootstocks. Arizona received the orange tree with the founding of missions between 1707 and 1710. The orange was brought to San Diego, California, by those who built the first mission there in 1769. An orchard was planted at the San Gabriel Mission around 1804. A commercial orchard was established in 1841 on a site that is now a part of Los Angeles. In 1781, a surgeon and naturalist on the ship, Discovery, collected orange seeds in South Africa, grew seedlings on board and presented them to tribal chiefs in the Hawaiian Islands on arrival in 1792. In time, the orange became commonly grown throughout Hawaii, but was virtually abandoned after the advent of the Mediterranean fruit fly and the fruit is now imported from the United States mainland.
The orange has become the most commonly grown tree fruit in the world. It is an important crop in the Far East, the Union of South Africa, Australia, throughout the Mediterranean area, and subtropical areas of South America and the Caribbean. The United States leads in world production, with Florida, alone, having an annual yield of more than 200 million boxes, except when freezes occur which may reduce the crop by 20 or even 40%. California, Texas and Arizona follow in that order, with much lower production in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. Other major producers are Brazil, Spain, Japan, Mexico, Italy, India, Argentina and Egypt. In Brazil, oranges are grown everywhere in the coastal plain and in the highlands but most extensively in the States of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, where orange culture rose sharply in the years immediately following World War II and is still advancing. Mexico’s citrus industry is located largely in the 4 southern states of Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosi and Veracruz. The orange crop is over one million MT and Nuevo Leon has 20 modern packing plants, mostly with fumigation facilities. Large quantities of fresh oranges and orange juice concentrate are exported to the United States and small shipments go to East Germany, Canada and Argentina. However, overproduction has glutted domestic markets and brought down prices and returns to the farmer to such an extent that plantings have declined and growers are switching to grapefruit. Cuba’s crop has become nearly 1/3 as large as that of Florida. Lesser quantities are produced in Puerto Rico, Central America (especially Guatemala), some of the Pacific Islands, New Zealand, and West Africa, where the fruit does not acquire an appealing color but is popular for its quality and sweetness. Many named cultivars have been introduced and grown in the Philippines since 1912, but the fruitis generally of low qualitybecause of the warm climate.

How to choose a ripe and fresh Fruit

The orange tree, reaching 25 ft (7.5 m) or, with great age, up to 50 ft (15 m), has a rounded crown of slender branches. The twigs are twisted and angled when young and may bear slender, semi-flexible, bluntish spines in the leaf axils. There may be faint or conspicuous wings on the petioles of the aromatic, evergreen, alternate, elliptic to ovate, sometimes faintly toothed “leaves”–technically solitary leaflets of compound leaves. These are 2 1/2 to 6 in (6.5-15 cm) long, 1 to 3 3/4 in (2.5-9.5 cm) wide. Borne singly or in clusters of 2 to 6, the sweetly fragrant white flowers, about 2 in (5 cm) wide, have a saucer-shaped, 5-pointed calyx and 5 oblong, white petals, and 20 to 25 stamens with conspicuous yellow anthers. The fruit is globose, subglobose, oblate or somewhat oval, 2 1/2 to 3 3/4 in (6.5-9.5 cm) wide. Dotted with minute glands containing an essential oil, the outer rind (epicarp) is orange or yellow when ripe, the inner rind (mesocarp) is white, spongy and non-aromatic. The pulp (endocarp), yellow, orange or more or less red, consists of tightly packed membranous juice sacs enclosed in 10 to 14 wedge-shaped compartments which are readily separated as individual segments. In each segment there may be 2 to 4 irregular seeds, white externally and internally, though some types of oranges are seedless. The sweet orange differs physically from the sour orange in having a solid center.

Ways to prepare and serve the Fruit

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers; Fruit.
Edible Uses: Condiment; Tea.
Fruit - raw. Sweet and delicious. The juice is often extracted from the fruit and sold as a refreshing and healthy drink or used in jellies, ice cream etc. The rind of the fruit is often used as a flavouring in cakes etc or made into marmalade. Flowers - cooked as a vegetable or made into a tea.

Health Benefits and Warnings of eating Fruit

Medicinal Uses

Appetizer; Blood purifier; Carminative; Miscellany; Skin; Tonic.
Citrus species contain a wide range of active ingredients and research is still underway in finding uses for them. They are rich in vitamin C, flavonoids, acids and volatile oils. They also contain coumarins such as bergapten which sensitizes the skin to sunlight. Bergapten is sometimes added to tanning preparations since it promotes pigmentation in the skin, though it can cause dermatitis or allergic responses in some people. Some of the plants more recent applications are as sources of anti-oxidants and chemical exfoliants in specialized cosmetics. The fruit is appetizer and blood purifier. It is used to allay thirst in people with fevers and also treats catarrh. The fruit juice is useful in the treatment of bilious affections and bilious diarrhoea. The fruit rind is carminative and tonic. The fresh rind is rubbed on the face as a cure for acne. The dried peel is used in the treatment of anorexia, colds, coughs etc.

Other Uses

Essential; Oil.
A semi-drying oil obtained from the seed is used in soap making. An essential oil from the peel is used as a food flavouring and also in perfumery and medicines.


Most of the oranges grown in California are of 2 cultivars: the ‘Washington Navel’ and the ‘Valencia’. Florida’s commercial cultivars are mainly: (early) ‘Hamlin’; (mid-season) ‘Pineapple’; (late) ‘Valencia’.
The ‘Washington Navel’ (formerly known as ‘Bahia’) originated, perhaps as a mutant in Bahia, Brazil, before 1820. It was introduced into Florida in 1835 and several other times prior to 1870. In 1873, budded trees reached California where the fruit matures at the Christmas season. It is large but with a thick, easily removed rind; not very juicy; of excellent flavor, and seedless or nearly so. Ease of peeling and separation of segments makes this the most popular orange in the world for eating out-of-hand or in salads. Limonene content of the juice results in bitterness when pasteurized and therefore this cultivar is undesirable for processing. The tree needs a relatively cool climate and should not be grown below an elevation of 3,300 ft (1,000 in) in tropical countries. Today it is commercially grown, not only in Brazil and California, but also in Paraguay, Spain, South Africa, Australia and Japan.
‘Trovita’, a non-navel seedling raised in 1914-1915 at the Citrus Experiment Station in California and released in 1935, is milder in flavor and has a few seeds, but may be earlier in season, and it has been considered promising in hot, dry regions unsuitable for ‘Washington Navel’. There are several other named variations such as ‘Robertson Navel’, ‘Summer Navel’, ‘Texas Navel’, and the externally attractive ‘Thompson Navel’ which was grown in California for a time but dropped because of its poor quality. Various mutants, more suitable for warmer climates, have been selected and named in Florida, including ‘Dream’, ‘Pell’, ‘Summerfield’, ‘Surprise’–the latter being more productive than ‘Washington Navel’ in Florida but still not grown to any extent. ‘Bahiamina’ is a small version of the ‘Washington Navel’ developed in Brazil in the late 1940’s. It follows ‘Pera’ and ‘Natal’ sweet oranges in importance in tropical Bahia.
‘Valencia’, or ‘Valencia Late’, is the most important cultivar in California, Texas and South Africa. It has been the leader in Florida until recently. In 1984, 40% of the oranges being planted in Florida were ‘Valencia’, 60% were ‘Hamlin’. The ‘Valencia’ may have originated in China and it was presumably taken to Europe by Portuguese or Spanish voyagers. The well-known English nurseryman, Thomas Rivers, supplied plants from the Azores to Florida in 1870 and to California in 1876. In Florida, it was quickly appreciated and cultivated, at first labeled ‘Brown’ and later renamed 'Hart’s Tardiff, ‘Hart’ and ‘Hart Late’ until it was recognized as identical to the ‘Valencia’ in California. It was not propagated for sale in California until 1916 and was slow to be adopted commercially. It is smaller than the ‘Washington Navel’, with a thinner, tighter rind; is far juicier and richer in flavor; nearly seedless except in Chile where the dry climate apparently allows better pollination and development of many more seeds -up to 980 in 44 lbs (20 kg). It needs a warm climate. In fact, it is the most satisfactory orange for the tropics, even though it may not develop full color in warm regions. In Colombia, the quality is good from sea-level to 5,000 ft (1,600 m). It bears two crops a year, overlapping and giving it the great advantage of a late and long season lasting until midsummer. The fruits on the trees in spring will regreen, lose their orange color and turn green at the stem end, but the quality is not affected. They were formerly dyed to improve market appearance but since the 1955 Food & Drug Administration ban on the synthetic dyes used on oranges, they have been colored by exposure to ethylene gas in storage. The gas removes the chlorophyll layer, revealing the orange color beneath. Degreening does not occur in California where ‘Valencia’ oranges from one growing area or another are marketed from late spring through fall.
‘Lue Gim Gong’ was claimed to be a hybrid of ‘Valencia’ and ‘Mediterranean Sweet’ made by a Chinese grower in 1886. ‘Lue Gim Gong’ was awarded the Wilder Silver Medal by the American Pomological Society in 1911 but, later on, his hybrid was judged to be a nucellar seedling of ‘Valencia’. Propagated and distributed by Glen St. Mary Nurseries in 1912, this cultivar closely resembles ‘Valencia’, matures and is marketed with its parent without distinction. It is best cited as the ‘Lue Gim Gong Strain’ of ‘Valencia’. ‘Mediterranean Sweet’ was introduced into Florida from Europe in 1875, was briefly popular, but is no longer grown.
Certain strains of ‘Valencia’ are classed as summer oranges because the fruits can be left on the trees longer without dehydrating. One is known as ‘Pope’, ‘Pope Summer’, or ‘Glen Summer’. It was found in a grove of ‘Pineapple’ oranges near Lakeland about 1916, was propagated in 1935, and trademarked in 1938. On sour orange or sweet orange rootstocks in hammock soils, the fruit matures in April but is still in good condition on the tree in July and August.
‘Rhode Red Valencia’ was discovered in 1955 in a grove near Sebring, Florida, by Paul Rhode, Sr., of Winter Haven. Some budwood was put on sour orange stock which caused dwarfing and some on rough lemon which produced large, vigorous, productive trees. In 1974, 5 trees were accepted into the Citrus Budwood Registration Program but there was no budwood free of exocortis and xyloporosis viruses. The fruit equals ‘Valencia’ insoluble solids, excels ‘Valencia’ in volume of juice, is less acid, has slightly less ascorbic acid, but has a far more colorful juice due to its high content of cryptoxanthin, a precursor of vitamin A which remains nearly stable during processing.
In Cuba, ‘Campbell Valencia’ (a 1942 seedling similar to ‘Valencia’), ‘Frost Valencia’ (a 1915 nucellar seedling of ‘Valencia’), and ‘Olinda Valencia’ (a virus-free nucellar seedling of ‘Valencia’ discovered in California in 1939), each on 2 different rootstocks–sour orange and Cleopatra mandarin–were test-planted in 1973 and evaluated in 1982. ‘Olinda Valencia’ on sour orange excelled in quality and in productivity.
‘Hamlin’, discovered in 1879 near Glenwood, Florida, in a grove later owned by A.G. Hamlin, is small, smooth, not highly colored, seedless and juicy but the juice is pale. The fruit is of poor-to-medium quality but the tree is high-yielding and cold-tolerant. The fruit is harvested from October to December and this cultivar is now the leading early orange in Florida. On pineland and hammock soil it is budded on sour orange which gives a high solids content. On sand, it does best on rough lemon rootstock.
‘Homosassa’, a selected Florida seedling named in 1877, is of rich orange color, of medium size, and excellent flavor, It was formerly one of the most valued midseason oranges in Florida but it is too seedy to maintain that position. It is no longer planted except perhaps in Texas and Louisiana.
‘Shamouti’ (‘Jaffa’; ‘Khalili’; ‘Khalili White’)–originated as a limb sport on a ‘Beledi’ tree near Jaffa, Israel, in 1844; introduced into Florida about 1883; oval, medium-large; peel entirely orange when ripe; leathery, thick, easy to remove; pulp very juicy, of good quality. Constitutes 75% of the Lebanese and Israeli crops; is one of the 2 main cultivars in Syria; was formerly an important, midseason, cold-tolerant, cultivar in Florida and was grown in all other orange-growing regions of the United States. However, the tree tends to alternate-bearing, the fruit does not hold for long on the tree and is subject to the fungus, Alternaria citri, and it is no longer planted in this country.
‘Parson Brown’ wasdiscovered in a grove owned by Parson Brown in Wester, Florida; was purchased, propagated and distributed by J.L. Carney between 1870 and 1878. It is rough-skinned, with pale juice; moderately seedy; of low-to-medium quality. It was formerly popular in Florida because of its earliness and long season (October through December), but has been largely replaced by ‘Hamlin’. It is grown in Texas, Arizona and Louisiana but is not profitable in California where it matures at the same time as ‘Washington Navel’. It does not develop acceptable quality in the tropics.
‘Pineapple’ is a seedling found in a grove near Citra, Florida. It was propagated in 1876 or 1877 under the name of ‘Hickory’. It is pineapple-scented, smooth, highly colored, especially after cold spells; of rich, appealing flavor, and medium-seedy. It is the favorite midseason orange in Florida, its tendency to preharvest drop having been overcome by nutrition and spray programs. If the crop is allowed to remain too long on the tree, it may induce alternate-bearing. It is grown to some extent in Texas, rarely in California; succeeds on sour orange rootstock in low hammock land, on rough lemon in light sand. Seedless mutants of ‘Pineapple’ have been produced by seed irradiation. This cultivar does fairly well in tropical climates though not as well as ‘Valencia’.
‘Queen’ is a seedling of unknown origin which was found in a grove near Bartow, Florida. Because it survived the freeze of 1894-95, it was propagated in 1900 under the name ‘King’ which was later changed to ‘Queen’. It is much like ‘Pineapple’, has fewer seeds, higher soluble solids, persists on the tree better in dry spells; is high-yielding and somewhat more cold-tolerant than ‘Pineapple’.
‘Blood Oranges’ are commonly cultivated in the Mediterranean area, especially in Italy, and also in Pakistan. They are grown very little in Florida where the red coloration rarely develops except during periods of cold weather. In California they are grown only as novelties. Among the well-known cultivars in this group are ‘Egyptian’, which tends to develop a small navel; ‘Maltese’, ‘Ruby’, and ‘St. Michael’.

Recipes made mainly with this Fruit

In the past, oranges were primarily eaten fresh, out-of-hand, and many are so consumed in warm climates. In Cuba, oranges are peeled by an old-fashioned apple peeler mounted on the pushcart of fruit vendors. Today, pre-peeled oranges in plastic bags are sold to motorists by Latin American street vendors in Miami. The hand-labor of peeling oranges has limited the production of sliced oranges for use by restaurants and orange-salad packers. However, a peeling machine developed by John Webb in Clear-water, Florida, is peeling 80 oranges a minute and this device, together with his successful sectioning machine, is expected to greatly expand the commercial use of fresh oranges.
In the home, oranges are commonly peeled, segmented and utilized in fruit cups, salads, gelatins and numerous other desserts, and as garnishes on cakes, meats and poultry dishes. They were also squeezed daily in the kitchen for juice but housewives are becoming less and less inclined to do this. In South America, a dozen whole, peeled oranges are boiled in 3 pints (1.41 liters) of slightly sweetened water for 20 minutes and then strained and the liquid is poured over small squares of toast and slices of lemon and served as soup.
In the past few decades, the commercial extraction of orange juice and its marketing in waxed cartons or cans has become a major industry, though now surpassed on a grand scale by the production of frozen orange concentrate to be diluted with water and served as juice. Dehydrated orange juice (orange juice powder), developed in 1963, is sold for use in food manufacturing, adding flavor, color and nutritive elements to bakery goods and many other products. Whole oranges are sliced, dried and pulverized, and the powder is added to baked goods as flavoring.
Orange slices and orange peel are candied as confections. Grated peel is much used as a flavoring and the essential oil, expressed from the outer layer of the peel, is employed commercially as a food, soft-drink and candy flavor and for other purposes. Pectin for use in fruit preserves and otherwise, is derived from the white inner layer of the peel. Finisher pulp, consisting mostly of the juice sacs after the extraction of orange juice, has become a major by-product. Dried to a moisture content of less than 10%, it has many uses as an emulsifier and binder in the food and beverage industries.
Orange wine was at one time made in Florida from fruits too affected by cold spells to be marketed. It is presently produced on a small scale in South Africa. Orange wine and brandy are made in Brazil from fruits which have been processed for peel oil and then crushed.

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