An orange is a delectable pulpy fruit that belongs to the genus Citrus, the other famous members of which are lemon, lime, and grapefruit. The scientific name of the sweet orange is Citrus sinensis, while the name of the bitter variety is Citrus aurantium. The orange is considered a hybrid, possibly between Citrus maxima (pomelo) and Citrus reticulata (mandarin).
The fruit is covered by a bright yellow to orange-colored skin, known as the epicarp, and a thick, spongy mesocarp that lies beneath the epicarp. The internal part is divided into several individual segments (10 or more) with thin, but tough skins, that hold together the actual juicy pulp. Inside the segments, you can also find seeds that are known as 'pips'. Oranges became famous throughout the world, when they emerged as a miraculous cure for the disease, scurvy.
Historical Facts about Oranges
Origin and Distribution
The orange plant is believed to be native to Southeast Asia, mainly to the southeast and northeast India, Southern China, and Vietnam. The name 'orange' is presumably derived from the Sanskrit word, 'Nāraṅgaḥ' and the Telugu word 'Naringa', which after moving through different languages, ultimately became 'orange' in English.
Different varieties of orange were grown in both southeast and northeast regions of India, dating back to around 7000 years ago. The fruit was used in various dishes, for the excellent flavor it imparts. In China, the cultivation of oranges was believed to begin in around 2500 BC.
Many historians are of the opinion that the farmers of China established orange orchards by the beginning of the 1st century millennium, i.e., around 1000 AD. Soon, the nobility grew fond of this delightful fruit. This unleashed a competition among the cultivators to produce larger and tastier oranges, in order to please the nobility.
The Journey to Europe and Middle East
Among Europeans, Romans were the first to taste this juicy fruit. It reached the Roman empire around the 1st century BC. The credit for introducing this fruit to the Roman empire goes to the Persian traders, who had trade relations with India and Ceylon. So, oranges from southern India reached the Roman empire, and became quite popular among the nobility and the military classes.
The Roman empire declined in the 6th century, and subsequently, the world witnessed the rise of the Islamic Caliphate. With the decline of the Roman empire, the orange industry of Europe also suffered a setback.
North Africa came under the dominion of the Islamic Caliphate in the 7th century, which led to the closure of the trade routes to the Mediterranean countries. The Islamic rulers established trade relations with the Middle East, and thus oranges reached the Middle Eastern countries.
But a revival of the orange trade to Europe took place in the 11th century. The growers used seeds of Persian oranges, imported from Spain and Morocco, in order to produce an improved variety of oranges. This new variety is known as Seville orange, and is widely used in marmalades and liquor.
The sweet orange reached Europe in 1500 BC. The Portuguese traders were known to introduce this fruit to Europe. The actual commerce of sweet oranges took place with the discovery of a new trade route to India, near the Cape of Good Hope. Soon, oranges reached the Mediterranean region. In many Mediterranean languages, the sweet orange is also known as the Portugal orange.
The Journey to America
Oranges were introduced to America by Spanish explorers and conquerors. The Spanish explorers arrived in South America in the mid-15th century. They probably initiated orange cultivation in the 16th century in Cananeia, an island off the São Paulo coast in Brazil.
In the United States, the first orange tree was believed to be planted by Ponce de Leon, a Spanish explorer. He planted the first orange tree near St. Augustine, Florida, in mid-1500s.
In Los Angeles, the orange tree was first planted by William Wolfskill in 1841. He was one of the earliest settlers of Los Angeles. William Wolfskill not only planted orange trees, but also sold oranges to gold rush miners.
Today, the South American country, Brazil, is the leading producer of oranges, São Paulo being the main center of production. Brazil accounts for about one third of the world's total production of oranges.
Oranges are a rich source of vitamin C (ascorbic acid), folic acid, vitamin B6, flavonoids, dietary fiber, and several crucial minerals. They also contain antioxidants, which help protect the body from the harmful free radicals. In other words, the orange is one of the most popular and healthiest fruits to be around that can help you remain healthy and fit.