Season for Oranges Available Year Round, Depending on the Variety
Biting into a sweet, juicy orange - really, nothing can compare. This fruit surprisingly does not take its name owing to its color, but rather from the Sanskrit word for fragrant. And that it is! The aromatic oils in the skins are highly prized and utilized as flavorings for things like liqueurs and household cleaners. There are three types of oranges: sweet, bitter and loose skinned. We are most privy to the sweet navel, valencia and blood oranges we so deliciously snack upon. Although, the loose-skinned mandarin - which includes tangerines, clementines and satsumas - have become a popular treat in their own right. Bitter oranges, popular in other cultures' cuisines, are too astringent raw but do wonderfully cooked in things like marmalade.
How to Buy and Store Oranges
Choosing oranges can become a little tricky, because color is not necessarily an indicator to the fruit's ripeness. Why? Because Florida oranges are often dyed with food coloring! Except the organic ones of course. Buying locally from your farmers market can help you avoid those specimens. But also, some oranges undergo a "regreening" after they are ripe, so while they appear greenish and under ripe, they are actually the most delicious of all.
Choose your oranges for their firmness (except for mandarins which can be softer) and heaviness when compared to their size. This indicates they are juicy and have a thinner skin. Avoid fruit that has and soft spots or signs of mold. Store your oranges at cool room temperature or in the refrigerator, where they will last pretty much an equal amount of time - about two weeks.
How to Cook Oranges
Most Americans relegate oranges to a glass of OJ with breakfast, never coming to fully appreciate the orange in its full range of possibility. For one, its zest is intensely flavorful, and can be added to dressings, sauces, baked goods and savory dishes for a boost of orange flavor. Grate only organic oranges or ones that have not been artificially dyed with the fine side of a grater, and you can freeze for future use (wash first, of course).
An orange squeeze or segment can be added to tons of desserts as well as savory dishes, pairing well with many meats such as chicken and duck. Oranges also do wonderfully in salads. Then there's fresh squeezed juice or the simple act of a peel and eat - anytime, anywhere.
Health Benefits of Oranges
Oranges have a laundry list of health benefits, not the least of which is the excellent amount of vitamin C we all associate this citrus with. You should know though; once an orange is cut or juiced, the vitamin C content quickly begins to diminish. Oranges are also loaded with fiber, B vitamins, potassium and an impressive amount of phytonutrients. All of these combine to make this fruit a great fighter against the aging process and all that comes along with it - from cancer and heart disease to arthritis and wrinkles. An orange is more beneficial than a vitamin C supplement.
Why Buy Natural and Organic Oranges
Because oranges are among the top 20 foods in which pesticide residues are most frequently found and are often injected with food dye to glow a brilliant orange when conventionally grown, buy your oranges organic whenever possible. Also, consider juicing your own oranges since their health benefits begin to quickly diminish upon juicing. Canned, bottled and frozen-concentrate orange juices have a greatly decreased vitamin C content and won't give you the same taste and quality as your own fresh squeezed.