Updated: May 31
An older generation will tell you how once upon a time oranges were so rare on these islands you might even have one in your Christmas stocking. The first bitter oranges made their way from the wilds of India and China, hence Mandarin, then the middle ages saw oranges cultivated in Italy and morph into a sweeter variety and finally spread around the Med. Israel giving us the Jaffa of course. The Spanish took them to the Americas and they really took off in Florida and California.
They were flourishing there until recently when an insect disease that attacks the trees wiped out the five billion dollar industry in Florida by half, doubling the cost of orange juice and handing Brazil a new chunk of the world market in their place. The regular adverse weather bashing by hurricanes does not help its cause either. This will explain the unavailability of some of the regular brands the last couple of years. It is Florida we have to thank for orange juice in the first place.
The excess crops of the twentieth century had to be used up so with the advent of pasteurisation, freezing and canning and the realisation that scurvy can be avoided for the military with vitamin c it all came together during world war two and the rest of America and the world took to orange juice for their breakfast.
The idea of concentrate was born and later the not from concentrate recipe came about and this is what you get in your carton these days if not paying the extra for the freshly squeezed. My first taste of orange juice was those very cans of concentrate in the seventies but my mother being the purist preferred to squeeze her fresh oranges believing the better vitamin c was worth every drop. You really cannot beat the fresh stuff and when in sunny climes these days with orange trees outside a window it is so nice to literally to pick and squeeze your own juice. You also are free from the wax polish that is sprayed on most of your supermarket oranges as they have to be cleaned of course and some end up with an orange dye as well to big up the resulting pale colour.
These days I can only drink the fresh stuff with my serious aversion to any other form of it. In hotels serving the cheap orange juice at breakfast I will ask for a couple of fresh oranges and do my own drink at the table with a knife and fork. I am partial to a vodka and orange juice too as an aperitif and when there is none of the good stuff behind a bar I will do the same, happy to produce it myself in front of the barman even in a five star joint which should always have fresh orange juice anyway but most don’t. A purist like me mammy. The orange does not fall far.
Cooking wise oranges are very versatile, your duck a l’orange is a classic, they also work with salads and sauces and as for desserts, well it can enhance almost any recipe from cakes, biscuits and pastries to mousses, ice cream and jellies. Marmalade is made from the bitter Seville oranges but it was actually the British who came up with this famous jam. The Chinese originally had oranges just as a fragrance from the rind as their original variety was too bitter to eat.
The varieties around the world are endless now, the Valentia is actually American. The blood orange comes from the Italian cold nights and hot days overdeveloping the red pigment. The little cousins satsumas originate in Japan, clementines were named after their French creator Clement Roger and tangerines come from Tangier in Morocco.
So whatever way you eat oranges do consume them as they are made of the good stuff. Okay there are strong on sugar which can be concern for some but once it is natural and if not excessive there is not much risk you will get tangoed.