‘Orange is the happiest Colour’. (Frank Sinatra) In winter it’s good to think about oranges. It lifts the spirits, reminding us of the bright light and warmth of a summer’s day. Our mouths start watering when we think about oranges. Try to resist that and you will find it is an automatic bodily reaction implying this cheery little citrus has had a long-standing connection with humanity.
Orange trees can even be grown in my northern English hometown of Rotherham. They are attractive, flowering, self-fertile, evergreens but as they are not hardy commitment is needed. The more you give them the more they will give back. Use outside containers from early summer, and a gently (15+ degrees) heated greenhouse or well-lit conservatory, over the winter. They hate central heating. It makes the air too dry. Leaf misting in summer is a must but never let them get cold. Temperatures below 7–8 degrees may prove fatal.
Genetic research has identified the origin of the sweet orange (Citrus Sinensis). They are a hybrid of the Pomello (Citrus Maxima) an ancestor of the grapefruit and the smaller Mandarin Orange (Citrus Reticulata). Oranges have been cultivated in south east Asia (north east India, China and Myanamar) for at least 4000 years. Our own bronze age ancestors had to make do with onions. I used to believe oranges came from Spain which was partly true because in Europe, they were first grown in Andalusia under Moorish Rule around 900AD. Think Moroccan oranges with cinnamon…
Oranges were status symbols for wealthy people with gardeners and lots of space behind glass for winter. Louis XIV’s palace at Versailles has a huge orangery. More locally many British stately homes have orangeries; Chatsworth’s is now a shop and there is an elegant eighteenth century orangery at Nostell Priory. Oranges are grown commercially throughout the world, especially in Brazil and the USA. Orange juice is a commodity traded on a huge scale because it used for everything from ‘freshly squeezed’ to, concentrate, sweet orange oil (flavourings and fragrances) and in solvents, detergents and cleansers.
Oranges contain vitamin C helping to protect our cells from damage and flavanones which may help protect us from heart disease and cancer. They also provide fibre, calcium, potassium and vitamins A and B. But we must not forget marmalade… much loved by Paddington bear and many more! Traditionally marmalade has helped us retain the link to sunny Spain as the main ingredient was Seville oranges. But ‘marmelada’ was actually a Portuguese jam spread made of quince. Charles II’s mistress Nell Gwyn was selling ‘sweet china oranges’ for a sixpence each around the same time as the first known English recipe for a ‘Marmelet of Oranges’ was written up in 1677, but that was more of a paste than a spread. We can thank Scots such as the Robertsons (Paisley) and the Keillers (Dundee) for marmalade as we know it today.
In closing I love the following ‘orangey’ observation and take it to mean that what you say under pressure can represent who you really are: ‘When you squeeze an orange, orange juice comes out, because that’s what’s inside. When you are squeezed, what comes out is what is inside.’ (Dr Wayne Dyer)