Many people consider the orange to be the best fruit in the world. Because their scent is heavenly, their taste sweet and refreshing. The orange is also very healthy and, in addition to vitamin C, provides numerous other vital substances. Find out everything about the orange with us.
Oranges are a treat for the senses and the body
When winter approaches, the regional fruit supply becomes increasingly scarce. At the same time, the season for oranges and other citrus fruits begins. Apart from the culinary delight, the orange offers many health benefits. There are a lot of medicinally active ingredients such as vitamin C, secondary plant substances, and essential oils in the pulp and in the juice as well as in the peel and in the flowers. So it is not surprising that the hero Hercules stole the apples of the Hesperides, which are said to have been citrus fruits, in order to gain eternal youth and strength.
The orange is a berry
All sorts of fruits such as strawberries or raspberries are popularly referred to as berries, although from a botanical point of view these are not berries at all. The orange, however, which does not really correspond to the idea of a berry, is one. To be more precise, it is a tank berry. This term comes from the fact that the orange has a firm and leathery skin that encloses the flesh like a shell.
The origin of the orange
The orange (Citrus × Sinensis L.) belongs to B. the tangerine, the lemon, and the grapefruit to the citrus plants. It probably originally comes from China and is therefore also known as an orange, which means nothing more than “apple from China”. The orange was first mentioned in Chinese literature in 314 BC. Chr.
Numerous citrus fruits are the result of crosses between citrus plants. According to DNA analyses, the parents of the orange are the tangerine and the grapefruit, which existed much earlier. Oranges also include bergamot and bitter orange (bitter orange). Compared to the popular sweet orange, however, the latter are rarely eaten. Thanks to the particularly thick peel, they are mainly used to produce orange peel and essential oils.
How the orange came to Europe
The orange only came to Europe in the Middle Ages. Portuguese seafarers discovered the beautiful fruit in East Africa on their way to India and brought them to Europe – like lemons and bitter oranges before them.
According to legend, the very first orange tree brought to Portugal was in Lisbon for centuries. It is true that on European soil, orange trees were only cultivated in Portugal for a long time and that they can reach an impressive age. But the plants don’t get much older than 100 years.
What is meant by an orangery?
Arriving in the Mediterranean region, the orange quickly became very popular. In the middle of the 17th century, people all over Europe were at least familiar with it. Since the sweet fruit was still a rare commodity at the time, it soon mutated into a luxury item. There was a kind of competition among the nobility as to who could afford the most orange trees or oranges.
This is how the so-called orangeries came about, i.e. greenhouses in which exotic and not winter-hardy plants were grown. Louis XIV had the largest royal orangery. The Sun King loved oranges more than anything and therefore had the orange trees in the Orangery in Versailles, which is heated with tiled stoves, cultivated all year round. Also, the exotic trees were planted in tubs of pure silver and placed throughout the palatial palace to perfume the air.
What the word orange means
What is unique about the term orange is that it stands for both a fruit and a color. But was the fruit named after the color or vice versa? The name of the fruit comes from the Sanskrit word nāraṅga. The adjective, on the other hand, has only been used since the beginning of the 17th century. It is interesting that before that there was no word for the orange color. They were described, for example, as dark yellow, light red, or yellow-red.
The Calories in Oranges
With 100 g of oranges, it is 47 kcal, with the same amount of lemons only 35 kcal. But it is usually not worth counting the calories when eating fruit. Only dried fruit is richer in calories since the water is removed during its production, while the sugar content increases at the same time. 100 g of dried oranges already contain 250 kcal, which is little compared to a typical chocolate bar. On average, the latter supplies almost twice the amount of calories (e.g. Milky Way 450 kcal/100 g).
Orange juice with or without pulp
It is often discussed whether fruit juice from the trade with pulp is healthier than without, for example, because it contains more fiber. According to an international study from 2019, that is true, but the differences are only minor in terms of content and the effect on intestinal flora.
The fiber content in the fruit juices with pulp that were tested was only 2 to 3 percent higher than in those without pulp. In freshly squeezed orange juice, on the other hand, the fiber content is 33 percent higher on average!
The fact that it is richer in secondary plant substances speaks much more for the purchase of orange fruit juice with pulp. However, this is only the case if there is a sufficient amount of pulp in the orange juice. Again, freshly squeezed orange juice is the best choice. It not only contains more fiber but also more secondary plant substances than industrially produced fruit juice with pulp.
Oranges are rich in carotenoids
Whether oranges, bananas, flamingos, or salmon trout: They all owe their beautiful color to carotenoids. This is a group of dyes whose spectrum ranges from yellow to red. The orange is a notable source of carotenoids, found in the peel, pulp, and juice.
Analyzes by an international team of researchers were able to identify around 80 carotenoids in 2019. In addition to the well-known beta-carotene, the orange contains many more of these coloring agents such as e.g. B. β-cryptoxanthin, violaxanthin, and lycopene. The content, presence, and dominance of the respective carotenoids are strongly dependent on the fruit part, the time of harvest, and the variety.
Of course, the carotenoids not only have an effect on the optics but also on health. Both beta-carotene and β-cryptoxanthin serve as provitamin A, i.e. they are converted into vitamin A in the body and in this way contribute to eye health. Many other carotenoids also share lycopene’s ability to counteract free radicals and protect against diseases such as cancer.
Moreover, according to Spanish researchers, more carotenoids are absorbed from the pulp of the orange than from the juice.
Orange peel: properties and effects
Who does not know the scent that oranges exude when they are cut open or peeled? As with other wintry aromas such as cinnamon or clove, Christmas feelings are immediately awakened. The beguiling citrus aroma does not come from the pulp, but from the orange peel. Both in the outermost layer of the shell (exocarp), which is mostly orange in our area, and in the mesocarp (white part of the shell). The pulp is called the endocarp.
Since the mesocarp tends to taste bitter due to certain flavonoids such as naringin, only the orange peel layer is used in food and drink. For this reason, for as long as anyone can remember, mothers and grandmothers have taken the trouble to remove this thin layer (zest) in order to flavor biscuits, cakes, teas, and punch. There is now a very useful kitchen helper, the so-called zest ripper, with which this work can be done without any problems.
Essential oil of orange: the composition
The citrus scent is due to the essential oils in the orange peel. Orange essential oil is obtained by cold pressing and is composed of hundreds of substances. Superficially, these are terpenes – between 74 and 97 percent limonene – and other substances such as flavonoids. Essential orange oil is therefore also of medical importance.
Essential oil of orange in medicine
Essential orange oil has long been used in medicine, for example in aromatherapy. With scent therapy, only an evaporator or scent lamp is required. A maximum of 10 drops of essential orange oil in the water of the fragrance lamp are enough to transform an entire room into a citrus paradise.
It is important when buying that it is “100% pure essential oil” in organic quality. Otherwise, you run the risk that the product contains synthetic or semi-synthetic fragrances that have no medicinal effect and can even lead to unpleasant symptoms such as headaches.
Orange essential oil counteracts anxiety, stress, and fatigue
Essential orange oil is u. a. Used to relieve stress, control anxiety, relax and uplift mood. In 2013, a study of 30 children showed that orange oil aromatherapy was shown to reduce fear of the dentist. One session was without aromatherapy (control group) and on another day another treatment with aromatherapy was given.
At each visit, before and after treatment, the children’s anxiety levels were measured using salivary cortisol and pulse rate. Because if there is a state of anxiety, the stress hormone cortisol is released and the heart rate increases. The study found that orange oil significantly reduced anxiety.
When oranges are in season
In southern Europe, the orange season starts in late autumn and lasts until April. An exception is the blood oranges, which are only commercially available from December to early April. Oranges are one of the few fruits from Europe that make it into the fruit basket in Central Europe during the cold season.
However, oranges are now available all year round. In summer they are mainly imported from countries like South Africa, the USA, and Israel. However, most fruits are not sold as fresh goods, but processed industrially into juices and concentrate.
Most ripe oranges are actually green
The oranges that we sell are always orange or, in the case of blood oranges, reddish. But the color says nothing about the degree of ripeness because green oranges can also be ripe. Citrus fruits need cool nighttime temperatures to turn orange or yellow. In the tropics, therefore, they remain green even when they are ripe.
The reason most of us have never seen a green orange is because of the EU’s citrus marketing standard. Because this stipulates that the orange color must be typical of the variety and that a maximum of one-fifth of the peel may be green. For this reason, oranges that do not conform to the norm are degreed. It does this by exposing the fruit to the ripening gas ethylene, which destroys the green pigment chlorophyll in the peel.
Why green oranges are banned in the EU
The southern European orange producers Spain and Greece are responsible for these EU regulations. While other European countries would also like to allow the ripe green oranges for sale, Spain and Greece are stubbornly opposed. Because the nights are cool there, there is a good chance that most oranges will turn orange. European oranges need to be degreed, especially at the beginning of the orange season.
Southern European oranges, therefore, offer the advantage that no unnecessary expenditure of energy has to be made. According to the German food chemist Udo Polymer, oranges that have not been peeled taste better. Because the degreening affects the quality, which is reflected in less fruit acid, a bland taste, and faster aging. Ultimately, however, it is about the competition. If green oranges could also be sold, there would be no need to degree them.
In addition, people in Europe are now so used to oranges having a beautiful orange color that they would classify the green fruit as unripe and not even buy it.
All conventionally grown oranges are contaminated with pesticides
Every year, the chemical and veterinary investigation office in Stuttgart published a report from everyday laboratory work in 2019, in which residues and contaminants in fresh fruit from conventional cultivation were analyzed. And like every year, the inventory in terms of citrus fruits was not good. Because these contained an average of 6.5 different active ingredients.
36 oranges were examined, each of which contained pesticide residues and multiple residues. These included the insecticides chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos-methyl. These pesticides are toxic to animals such as amphibians, bees, and fish, and are anything but harmless to humans.
Studies have shown that even at non-toxic doses, chlorpyrifos can damage the cerebrum of embryos and reduce their mental performance. As a result, the approval in the EU was no longer renewed in January 2020.
What oranges are treated with after harvest
Oranges from conventional cultivation are not only treated with pollutants on the tree but also after the harvest. These include fungicides such as Imazalil, which ensure that the fruit does not spoil prematurely during transport and in stores. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has already classified imazalil as “probably carcinogenic”.
According to estimates by the EPA, those people who come into direct contact with the fungicide at work, for example, packing citrus fruits, are primarily at increased risk. According to a Belgian study, however, even small amounts of imazalil ingested through food can be harmful to health.
In addition, oranges are provided with artificial coatings after harvesting. Because the natural wax layer, which actually protects the fruit from damage and fungal attack, is destroyed during the cleaning process. The synthetic coating agents include e.g. B. Montanic acid ester (E 912), which is extracted from lignite.
E 912 has been classified as safe because it is only intended for fruit whose skin is not intended for consumption. Since there are no toxicological studies on E 912, the EU is now discussing withdrawing the substance’s approval.
How to recognize organic oranges
If you don’t want to come into contact with harmful substances, you should use organic oranges. Because these are free of pesticides and preservatives and are covered with a natural wax layer such as beeswax (E 901) or candelilla wax (E 902), if at all.
Some characteristics indicate that these are organic oranges. On the one hand, organically produced fruits are usually smaller. On the other hand, shiny and flawless skin is usually a clear indication that synthetic coating agents have been used and that the fruit is not organic. Organic fruits, on the other hand, look dull. However, only organic seals of approval provide reliable information as to whether it is organic or not.
Why organic and fair trade oranges are more expensive
Many consumers wonder why organic and fair trade oranges cost more than conventionally grown fruit. This is because growing organic oranges are more labor intensive. Instead of chemical-synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, mechanical measures and natural crop protection agents are used.
In addition, organic oranges are grown in smaller quantities and the harvests are much smaller than in large farms, which can operate more cost-effectively. With Fairtrade oranges, great importance is also attached to the farmers being able to cover the production costs and the workers being paid a fair wage. Consumers to whom this is important are happy to pay a little more to protect the environment, promote fair trade and protect their own health.
Oranges can be frozen
If you have bought too many oranges, you can freeze them. But frozen oranges leave a lot to be desired in terms of texture, taste, and aroma. Navel oranges are the worst for this. Because they contain more of the secondary plant substance limonene, which tastes bitter. When freezing, the bitter note is basically intensified.
You can freeze oranges in slices, whole or orange fillets as well as the orange zest and juice. Simply place the oranges in the desired shape in freezer bags, remove the air, and place it in the freezer. You should thaw the fruit or the juice slowly in the refrigerator. Frozen oranges are great for smoothies or desserts like fruit salad.
How to fillet oranges
If you want to squeeze oranges, all you have to do is cut them in half. If you want to cut the pulp into slices or cubes, a little more effort is required. The easiest way to remove the peel is to cut off the peel from the top and bottom of the orange, then score the peel five or six times vertically all around so that you can easily peel off the peel parts. Another variation is to peel the orange like an apple in a spiral shape. But you often damage the fine skin of the carvings, so that you no longer get complete carvings.