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Orange Order

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Despite its travels, the orange remained a rare fruit, reserved for royalty and the very wealthy. The first orangerie or gallery for sheltering oranges, was built by Charles VIII of France, and many European monarchs followed suit. Louis XIV built a magnificent C-shaped building at Versailles filled with a thousand trees in silver boxes. The middle classes were only able to start enjoying oranges during the 20th century and even then the fruit was an indulgence.

The distribution success in North America was largely attributed to the development of the railroad, allowing for the rapid transport of ripening fruit. Today four times as many oranges are grown in Florida than are grown in California. Florida oranges are usually used for their juice because they are not as visually appealing. California oranges have a beautiful bright hue, in large part due to the cooler night temperatures during the growing season. The two most popular sweet varieties that are grown are the juicy Valencia and the sweet, easy-to-peel navel.

According to pomologists (a fruit-growing scientist), oranges and other members of the genus Citrus (lemons, limes, mandarin, sweet and sour oranges, grapefruits, Persian and Mexican limes) readily interbreed, creating a myriad of hybrids that can be difficult to classify. Most hybrids are not available commercially. The blood orange is one example of hybrid orange that comes on the market for a short time at the beginning of the year. They have a thin skin, often tinged with a red blush and a dark ruby-red flesh. They are a sexy fruit with a combination of orange and raspberry flavour and they add striking colour and intensity to any dish they are used in.

Interestingly, oranges are not named for their colour. The word orange is actually a transliterate from sanskrit naranga , which is derived from naru , Tamil for "fragrant." The plants were grown for their fragrance and beauty long before they were grown for their fruit.

The orange tree has long been a symbol of fertility because the evergreen produces flowers, fruit and foliage simultaneously. It was believed that holding an orange in your hand could ward off the plague. By the 16th century, oranges and other citrus fruits were mainstays of naval galleys as they were known to prevent scurvy.

Oranges keep well for several days at room temperature and will keep for up to two weeks in the fridge. When selecting fruit, choose oranges that are shiny and heavy for their size, without any mould or sponginess. Colour is not always a good indication of ripeness as they are often sprayed with food colouring to enhance their appearance. A green tinge or a russeting of the skin does not indicate poor quality. If a recipe calls for using the skin or zest of the orange, thoroughly wash the fruit with soap and water first.

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