Oranges - our fruit of the month

Introduction

These round orange coloured fruits, well known for their sweet taste and high amounts of vitamin C also contain fibre, thiamin and folate. They are also low in calories and fat.

Vegetable Origins & Varieties 

Sweet orange (Citrus × sinensis) is a citrus fruit in the family Rutaceae - it’s a hybrid between a pomelo (Citrus maxima) and a mandarin (Citrus reticulata).

The four original core species in the citrus genus have been hybridised into most modern commercial citrus fruit - they are the mandarine, pumelo, papeda and citron.  Recent research suggests that the very first species of citrus (the size of a berry) might have originated in North-Eastern Australasia or the Indonesia archipelago. They are recorded in China being cultivated around 2500 BC. The orange is now unknown in the wild state.

The colour orange is named after the fruit – first recorded in English in 1512.

Growing tips & Harvesting

Orange plants can grow to large shrub or small tree size and are grafted on to suitable rootstocks; they have spiny shoots and evergreen leaves.  The flowers are solitary or in small clusters and are often very strongly scented.  They do well in containers or large pots grown indoors.

Like most citrus plants, oranges need a moderate temperature range - between 15.5 and 29 °C (and are very sensitive to frost) they require considerable amounts of sunshine and water - rainwater is best or cold boiled water.

Storing & Preparation

They can be kept at room temperature for about a week or up to two weeks in a fridge. They are best kept in a dry place as humidity will increase their likelihood to mould.

The peel is usually removed before eating as is the white pith which can be bitter.

My favourite Recipes

Marmalade loaf cake recipe

Serves 10

175g butter

175g brown sugar

2 eggs

125g marmalade

zest of 1 orange

juice of ½ orange

175g brown self-raising flour

Grease and line a loaf tin measuring 22 x 12 x 6cm

Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the beaten eggs a little at a time, then beat in the marmalade, zest and juice. Sift the flour and add the bran from the sieve back into it. Fold into the batter with a metal spoon. Scrape into the tin and smooth the top.

Bake in an oven preheated to 180°C for 35 minutes, adding orange slices after 20 minutes. Leave for 10 minutes, then turn on to a wire rack, peel off the paper and set the right way up. Leave to cool.

Fennel and Orange Salad

Ingredients

2 fennel bulbs

1 ½ oranges

½ lemon, juice only

extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Cut off the tops of the fennel bulbs and slice thinly into rings. Place into a large bowl.

Cut away the skin and pith from one orange and slice into circles 1cm/½in thick. Add to the fennel.

Make the salad dressing by mixing the orange juice from half the orange, the lemon juice, an equal amount of olive oil and salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Drizzle over the fennel and orange and serve

Final words

Oranges are a versatile fruit which can be used in both sweet and savoury recipes. Freshly squeezed juice is perfect to drink straight away and the flavours work well with chocolate in cakes too.