Juicy and sweet and renowned for its concentration of vitamin C, oranges make the perfect snack and add a special tang to many recipes; it is no wonder that they are one of the most popular fruits in the world. Oranges are generally available from winter through summer with seasonal variations depending on the variety.
Oranges are round citrus fruits with finely-textured skins that are, of course, orange in color just like their pulpy flesh; the skin can vary in thickness from very thin to very thick. Oranges usually range from approximately two to more than three inches in diameter.
When a snack recipe calls for an orange most cooks grab Valencia or navel.
But there are less obvious choices, from extra-sweet Cara Cara to dark-pigmented blood oranges, also called Moro. And these lesser-known varieties have so much more to offer. This fall and winter, expand your orange knowledge by trying varieties with different flavors and hues. The high season for oranges begins this month and runs through March. For optimal flavor and freshness, select oranges grown in California or elsewhere in the country.
How Many Orange Varieties are There?
The sweet orange (Citrus aurantium var. sinensis) is not to be found in the wild. It is a hybrid, although of which two types there is much conjecture. Most sources seem to settle on the marriage between the pomelo (Citrus maxima) and the mandarin (Citrus reticulata).
There are two basic categories of orange: the sweet orange (C. sinensis) and the bitter orange (C. aurantium).
Sweet Orange Varieties
Sweet orange is divided into four classes, each with distinct characteristics:
Common orange – There are many varieties of common orange and it is widely grown. The most common varieties of common oranges are the Valencia, Hart’s Tardiff Valencia, and the Hamlin, but there are dozens of other types.
Blood or pigmented orange – The blood orange consists of two types: the light blood orange and the deep blood orange. Blood oranges are a natural mutation of C. sinensis. High amounts of anthocyanin give the entire fruit its deep red hue. In the blood orange category, varieties of orange fruit include: Maltese, Moro, Sanguinelli, Scarlet Navel and Tarocco.
Navel orange – The navel orange is of great commercial import and we know it well as the most common orange sold at the grocers. Of the navels, the most common types are the Cara cara, Bahia, Dream navel, Late Navel and Washington or California Navel.
Acid-less orange – Acid-less oranges have very little acid, hence little flavor. Acid-less oranges are early season fruit and are also called “sweet” oranges. They contain very little acid, which protects against spoilage, thus rendering them unfit for juicing. They are not generally cultivated in large quantities.
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