Oranges -

The ordinary Sweet orange appears to have been first cultivated in the fifteenth century, but it has since spread to every part of the world where the climate is of sub-tropical warmth. The tree is an evergreen of moderate height with white flowers of heavy, sweet fragrance and considerable beauty (see Color Page opposite page 426). It bears foliage, flowers and fruit simultaneously, for the fruit requires about twelve months to become fully ripe. Mature cultivated California trees of good growth will generally give from two hundred and fifty to four hundred fruit annually. Those in more tropical latitudes average considerably higher and often produce several times that number.

The first Oranges in the market are the early Floridas and, next, the Arizona Navels, commencing November 1 or even earlier. Then comes the bulk of the California and Florida products - Navels and others. The finest summer orange is the Late Valencia of California, in season from the middle of June to November.

There is an increasing demand for fancy varieties of the Tangerine type - strongly aromatic fruits, generally small in size and flattened at the ends, with loose dark-colored skins and mild, sweet, rather dry pulp. They have been nicknamed "kid-glove" Oranges, because one can eat them without the aid of plate or spoon, as conveniently as candy. The most popular of the numerous varieties are the Tangerine proper, the Mandarin, larger and lighter in color, the Satsuma, and the King of Siam, or "King" - the last named generally of fair to large size and of very rough skin (see Color Page of orange types opposite page 430).

The ordinary sweet orange imported from Europe is the variety known as the Lisbon or Portugal and its near relatives. The most noteworthy special types include the St. Michael; the "China," with very smooth, thin rind and abundant juice; the Maltese or "Blood orange" with mottled pulp, and the Tangerine. The European Tangerine is grown in two sizes - one about half the size of an ordinary orange, and the other very small and sweet, scarcely an inch in diameter. The latter is seldom seen in this country. Still others are the Majorca, a seedless type, and the Egg orange, so named from its oval shape.

By far the greater part of the Oranges eaten in the United States are now grown in Florida and California, supplemented by a considerable supply from Porto Rico. The importations from the other West Indian Islands and Europe, formerly very large, have been greatly reduced and are still falling. A noteworthy percentage of the present supply of imported Oranges comes from Mexico, and there is also a small regular influx from Japan (chiefly of a type a little larger than the Mandarin), parts of Central America, etc.

The fame of the California product has been much enhanced by the fine "Navel" or seedless Oranges marketed in increasing quantities each year. Contrary to general belief, these Oranges are not the result of scientific development by horticulturists. They are a natural fruit of special variety.

The story of the rise of the Navel to its present commercial importance, reads like a fairy tale. In 1872, an United States Consul at Bahia, Brazil, sent a few young seedless orange trees from the swamps of the Amazon to Washington. The following year, a Mrs. Eliza Tibbets, of Maine, took three of the shrubs to Riverside, California, and planted them on land which her husband had purchased there. Two died, but the third survived, throve and bore fruit. California growers were quick to appreciate the merits of the Navel and competition in its cultivation was very keen. As the Oranges were seedless, propagation had to be accomplished by budding, and for a time Mrs. Tibbets secured a dollar a bud for all she sold.

In 1880, the navel orange crop was one whole box! - but since, from that one tree has grown an industry whose yearly value averages from fifteen to twenty million dollars. The original tree planted by Mrs. Tibbets still lives and bears fruit. It is now in the court of the Glenwood Hotel, Riverside, California, where it was transplanted with much ceremony in 1903.

The Washington Navel, the original type, so called because the first trees were secured from the agricultural department in Washington, D.C., is accredited with better and longer keeping qualities than any varieties of later introduction or development, but that known as the Valencia is considered the choicest in flavor.

The Florida orange is too well known to need much description. In its best types, it may be conservatively described as one of the finest fruits the world has ever produced. The skin is generally thin, and the pulp and juice are rich in flavor and very generous in weight and amount. Among the best types of the mid-season Floridas are the Indian River and Pineapple - of the later, the Tardif.

The best Porto Rico Oranges are of delicious flavor and sweetness, but they do not appeal to the public as strongly as the Florida and California, the product being small and less "fancy" in style, because West Indian shippers have not yet learned to exercise the same care in selection, sorting and "polishing" the fruit.

In California, Oranges receive much "grooming" after leaving the parent tree - and they are gathered only on sunny days, as the damp fruit would attract dust, to the detriment of their appearance.

The first step after plucking, is to give them a bath to remove any dust that may have settled on them. For this, they are placed in a long, narrow tank of water, at one end of which is a large wheel with a tire of soft bristles, revolving in connection with another set of brushes in a smaller tank below, the Oranges passing in between the wet brushes and coming out bright and clean. This device has almost entirely done away with the method of hand scrubbing, but at some of the smaller packing houses may still be seen groups of women, each busily scouring the golden balls.

After their bath, the Oranges are spread out in the sun to dry, on long slanting racks. At the lower end, they roll off into boxes, to be carried away to the warehouses for their "rest," for various changes take place in the fruit so recently cut off from the sap supply, the skin drawing closer to the pulp and "sweating" or giving off moisture that would result in damage if the fruit were packed at once.

After the days of curing, the Oranges are fed into a hopper, which drops them on a belt running between revolving cylindrical brushes, which produce the smooth, shiny appearance of the fine market fruit, and then they go to the "sorting tables," where they are rapidly graded according to color and general appearance, as "Fancy," "choice," "standard," "culls," etc., and, mechanically, by size. The "Fancy" fruit are perfect in form and style and with unmarred skins of the typical orange color. The lesser grades are principally those in which the skin is more or less stained or "russet"-brown in color. Other trade terms of division are "Brights," divided into "Fancies" and "Seconds"; "Golden Russets," "Dark Russets," etc. The sorting tables are built at a slight incline and the divided streams of Oranges run in files on tracks of moving ropes. The smallest fruit falls through first, and so on to the largest, the Oranges graduating themselves into their proper bins. There are twelve principal sizes, from those which run three hundred and sixty to a box, to the big specimens which take only forty-eight.

Sharp corners are avoided or carefully padded in all these processes, for the fruit is so susceptible that even a small scratch might fester and destroy its merit between shipping point and destination. For the same reason, handlers and packers are obliged to keep their finger nails short and filed smooth.

Finally comes the wrapping of the finer fruit in paper - there are machines which can each handle forty thousand to fifty thousand a day - and the packing in boxes, the barrel method of shipping having been almost entirely superseded.

Though only fruit of fair size and appearance are, as a rule, offered for sale to the public, there is use for all undersized specimens. Very small Oranges, generally unripe, are preserved whole in sugar as a sweetmeat, or used to make some varieties of "curaçoa" and other liqueurs, for juices and jams or marmalades, extracts, essential oils, etc.

The orange peel most in demand for confectionery, preserves, candying, etc., is, however, that of the sour or Seville orange, described in the next article.

Ripe Oranges should be stored in a cool, dry place with a temperature never much above 40° Fahr. and never falling to the freezing point. If subjected to careful sorting beforehand and properly crated, they will at that temperature generally remain sound for from eight to twelve weeks. For a moderate length of time, they will stand warmth up to 80° or 85° Fahr., but anything beyond that will dry and shrivel them. In warm weather, a plentiful supply of fresh air is essential to their proper keeping, whether in transportation or in store or home. Wrapping in soft paper and packing in sawdust is recommended. The thin-skinned varieties are especially liable to absorb odors, so proximity to strong smelling articles should be avoided.

Oranges received in a green state may be ripened in a temperature of 70° to 75° Fahr. While ripening, it is well to cover the boxes with burlap soaked in water.

Oranges are probably the most wholesome and useful of all the sub-acid fruits. Their juice differs from that of the lemon chiefly in containing less citric acid and more sugar. Their free and regular consumption is beneficial to nearly everyone and with many persons they are a real specific for ill health based on digestive disorders.

A point to be remembered by the consumer is that many a choice fruit is concealed in a mottled-looking skin! Weight for size, ripeness and soundness, are the principal points for consideration. All of these may be found equally in those of "fancy" and those of less pleasing appearance. Both "Brights" and "Russets" may be plucked from the same tree and under the skin will average exactly the same in quality. The russet color is caused by the puncturing of the rind by a tiny insect known as the Rust mite, which permits the oil of the rind to exude - but the mite does not touch nor affect the fruit pulp. "Golden Russets" are those attacked later or in less degree. For ordinary family purposes it is not necessary to confine oneself to the more expensive fruits, classed as "fancy" because of their handsome exteriors.

Arround Oranges in The Grocer's Encyclopedia


The Grocer's Encyclopedia
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