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Orange (fruit)

Sweet oranges

Oranges and orange juice

An orange is the fruit of an orange tree, one of the most common citrus fruits, widely grown in warmer climates, and distributed worldwide. Oranges are orange in color – the color is named for the fruit, not the other way around.

The orange has a sweet-sour taste and is commonly peeled and eaten fresh, or squeezed for its juice. It has a thick bitter rind that is usually discarded, but can be used in cooking. The outer-most layer of the rind is called orange zest, and it has a similar flavor to the inner part of the orange. The white part of the rind is almost always discarded.

All citrus trees are of a single genus, Citrus, and remain largely interbreedable – that is, there is only one "superspecies" which includes lemons and limes as well as oranges. Nevertheless names have been given to the various members of the citrus family, oranges often being referred to as Citrus sinensis and Citrus aurantium.


The fruit originated in India (some say Vietnam) and was called na rangi in Sanskrit. The na rangi or naranja was translated as "norange", and in English usage a norange was back-formed into the more acceptable an orange. The same thing happened in French and Italian, but in Spanish it is still naranja. The original fruit is rather bitter compared to modern varieties, as is referred to as the sour orange (or alternately, bitter, bigarade or Seville orange). The sour taste is in fact attributed to the slight acidity of the orange's juice. It is not entirely clear if the sour orange really is the original stock or not, and it may be the case that there is no original wild orange species.


A number of varieties of orange are now cultivated widely. The sweet orange (Citrus aurantium) was first grown in Spain, and has become the most popular variety. The sweet orange will grow to different sizes and colors due to local conditions, most commonly with ten carpels (slices) inside.

A single mutation in an orchard of sweet oranges planted at a monastery in 1820 in Brazil led to the navel orange (aka Washington, Riverside or Bahia navel). A single cutting of the original was then transplanted to Riverside, California in 1870, creating a new market worldwide. The mutation caused a diapaloid (twin) fruit, with a smaller orange embedded in the outer fruit near the stem. From the outside the smaller, undeveloped, twin leaves a human navel-like formation at the top of the fruit. Navel oranges are almost always seedless, and tend to be larger than the sweet orange. They are produced without pollination (parthenocarpy).

The Valencia or Murcia orange is one of the sweet oranges used for juice extraction. It is a late-season fruit. It is a popular variety of orange when the navel oranges are out of season.

The blood orange has streaks of red in the fruit, and when squeezed the juice is often reddish. The mandarin is similar, but smaller and sweeter, and the scarlet navel is a variety with the same diapaliod mutation as the normal naval orange.

Bitter oranges are used in marmalade and as an ingredient in of the liqueurs triple sec and curacao.

Orange cultivation

Orange cultivation is a major business, and an important part of the economies of (among others) the US states of Florida and California, many Mediterranean countries, Romania, South Africa, and the 'Riverina' district around the Murray River in Australia.

Products made from oranges

Orange juice is one of the commodities traded on the New York commodities market. Brazil is the largest producer of orange juice in the world, followed by Florida.

Orange oil (produced by pressing the peel) is used in surface conditioning of wood furniture, and (along with other citrus oils) in grease removal and as a hand-cleansing agent. Orange spray (extracted from orange peels and sold commercially) is an extremely efficient cleaning agent which is environmentally friendly and non-toxic.

Orange blossom is traditionally associated with good fortune, and it was popular in bridal bouquets and headwreaths for weddings for some time (period of history? more details?). The petals of orange blossom can also be made into a delicately citrus-scented version of rosewater.

Orange blossom honey (really citrus honey) is produced by putting beehives in the citrus groves during bloom, which also pollinates seeded citrus varieties. Orange blossom honey is highly prized, and has a distinct orangy flavor.

See also: Tangerine, Mandarin orange, Kumquat, Orangewater

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