Oranges are not just great for snacks. They also produce a fabulous oil that can be used in the kitchen to add a sweet flavor to a variety of dishes, around the house as a green cleaner or in homemade body products and medical creams. Learn some interesting facts about the orange tree and how it grows, and how the orange traveled the world to become one of the most popular citrus fruits.
About The Orange Tree
Oranges are classified as a hybrid and are a cross between a pomelo and a mandarin. It is an evergreen tree that grows between 30 and 33 feet tall and produces blossoms that have almost as many uses as the orange fruit that they grow. The tree has oval leaves that are almost 4 inches long and form a canopy. As the oranges grow, they remain a green color and eventually turn, of course, orange. They should be picked when they are a pale orange hue.
The trees do best in moderate temperatures, between 60 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. They require a considerable amount of water and sunshine. They actually require so much water that it is believed the citrus industry alone may be partly responsible for the low availability of water in the Middle East. Oranges are sensitive to frost and if the weather is a threat, a common preventive process involves spraying the trees with water so that the oranges will actually be protected by ice instead of succumbing to much lower surrounding temperatures. This only works for short time periods though so deep freezes are one of the biggest threats to orange trees.
Orange trees can be grown directly from seeds but the process can be difficult and the seeds may be infertile or produce a subspecies that is different from the type of orange that the seeds originated from. Therefore, most trees are grown by grafting a mature cultivar onto a suitable seedling root-stock. This will ensure that the same species of orange is grown and the overall yield will be similar.
Orange In History
Oranges are assumed to have originated in either India or China. They were at first a decorative tree and then used for their medicinal properties. The fruit was not consumed until early in the 16th century. The trees were first cultivated in China around 2500 BC. They were introduced to Italy by 11th century crusaders where they were used medically, including the oil. Italian and Portuguese merchants introduced orange trees to the Mediterranean area and by 1646, oranges could easily be found throughout Europe.
Spanish travelers are responsible for introducing the fruit to the Americas. Christopher Columbus is thought to have planted orange trees on his second voyage in Hispaniola in 1493. Future expeditions would bring the fruit to South America and Mexico and finally to what would eventually be Florida in 1565, where orange orchards can still be found in abundance. Missionaries were responsible for introducing the orange to other areas of what would eventually be the United States. The trees reached Arizona between 1707 and 1710. In 1769, the first orange trees were sprouted in California near the future San Diego region. A commercial orange orchard was established in 1841 near what would be known as Los Angeles.
A botanist named Archibald Menzies collected orange seeds in South Africa. On his way to Hawaii, he raised the seedlings on the ship and gave them to Hawaiian chiefs in 1792. Orange orchards would probably still be present on the Hawaiian islands today if it were not for an infestation of the Mediterranean fruit fly in the early 1900s. Today, Brazil produces the highest percentage of oranges followed by Florida and California.
- Florida hosts an annual parade called the Citrus Parade In Florida. Oranges are one of the fruits that are honored at the festival. More than 100,000 pieces of fruit are included in the parade, most of them being used to create large floats.
- Nearly 85% of all oranges grown are used to make frozen concentrated orange juice, which was first introduced in 1940. Most of the peels from the juiced oranges are then used to make orange essential oil.
- Crepes Suzette is a world famous dessert that involves using orange juice, zest and liqueur. It was created by French chef Henri Charpentier in 1895. Orange liquor is made by combining sweet and bitter orange peels and pure alcohol from sugar beets.
- Orange trees produce orange blossoms, which have many uses. In Spain, fallen blossoms are used to make herbal tea. They can also be used to make a citrus-scented version of rosewater, called orange blossom water. In some Middle Eastern countries, the scented water is often added to disguise the taste of hard water. In the United States, the blossom water is used to make scones and marshmallows. It is also a common ingredient in French cuisine. The blossoms are also popular in the perfume industry and are the state flower of Florida.
- Oranges were known as the fruits of the Gods. It is believed that oranges were the “golden apples” that are mentioned in the story of Hercules and Titan Atlas, where Hercules tricked Atlas into holding up the world again so that Hercules could take the golden apples that Atlas had picked.
Oranges and Orange Oil Today
Today, orange oil is a common ingredient in household cleaners, perfumes and body care products. It is also a favorite oil by those who wish to use more natural ingredients in medical treatments. It can be used to treat anxiety, stress, insomnia, digestive issues and even shows promise as a cancer preventative and treatment. The main precaution to take with orange oil is to avoid application before sun exposure, as it is phototoxic. The oil should always be diluted and if you have sensitive skin it should be heavily diluted. If you have been searching for a great essential oil, orange should be highly considered.