Sunday 15 July 2012

NCR Oranges history, trivia and a salad

I've been eating oranges with my breakfast this winter.  It's been a while since I enjoyed them regularly and I am in love all over again. It started with a magnificent Orange, Walnut and Blue Cheese Salad that I found in a magazine (recipe at the end of this long post).

Chunks of orange in the salad reminded me of how refreshing they are.  In my childhood we often ate oranges over the sink because it was so messy when we ate the flesh off each quarter of skin.  Though I was never much of a sports person, I still associate orange quarters with breaks in netball and other games.

I was less keen on finding orange in every fruit salad but loved the juice.  Freshly squeezed orange juice was a treat in my family, and is always on the table at Christmas breakfast.  When we weren't eating them, we stuck cloves, really closely together, into oranges to make pomanders.

Orange History
The history of the orange involves a difference of origin between the bitter and sweet orange.  In fact I have read that some historic recipes often refer to the bitter orange when calling for an orange.  Jane Grigson notes that the name orange originally came from the Indian word narayam, meaning “perfume within”

The bitter orange is bitter orange is a native of Southeast Asia and was cultivated in the Indus Valley some 6,000 years ago.  It was brought to the Mediterranean by the Arabs around A.D. 1000, and was later brought to Spain, where they became known as the "Seville orange."

The sweet orange may also have originated in Southeast Asia, although many believe it to be a native of southern China.  It arrive in Europe around fifteenth century, brought by Moors and Genoese or Portuguese traders.  Sweet orange groves in India were remarked upon by Portuguese explorer, Vasco De Gamma in 1498.  The sweet orange became known as the "Portuguese orange".

Oranges can be seen in early Christian tile mosaics in Turkish Mosques that were churches of the Emperor Constantine, dating back to 300 AD.  They were encountered by English crusaders in the fruit groves around Jaffa in 1191-2 and were on display in the Renaissance paintings on the table in paintings of The Last Supper.

Oranges were a sign of opulence in Europe.  They were the symbol of the Medici (Italy) - five gold oranges can be found in their crest and oranges are painted on the ceilings of the Pitti Palace.  Sweet-orange trees were planted at Versailles (France) in 1421.  After Francis I saved Marseilles from a Spanish siege, the ladies of Marseillaise pelted him with oranges as a token of their love and gratitude.  Louis XIV of France hung tapestries of oranges in the halls of Versailles, because oranges and orange trees were the symbols of his nature and his reign.  He built a grand orangery to shelter the trees from the frost and in Spring the tubs of orange trees were wheeled into the sun.

The Dutch Royal Family got it surname and symbol from the little city called Orange in modern-day France.  The city of Orange was the centre of the orange trade, and a princedom owned by the Dutch Royal Family.

In England in the Seventeenth Century, Pepys was pleasantly surprised by orange juice and girls like Nell Gwynne sold sweet oranges in smart theatres of London.  Daphne du Maurier wrote a historical novel set in this period in which "the impatient crowd in the cheap seats [were] stamping and shouting for the play to begin while they threw orange peel on to the stage.”

Writing in The Road to Wigin Pier (1937), George Orwell discusses the appalling diet of a miner and remarks, "[w]ould it not be better if they spent more money on wholesome things like oranges and wholemeal bread".  During World War II, oranges were highly prized as one of the rationed foods.  This was reflected in the title of Vere Hodgson's war diaries, Few Eggs and No Oranges.  I read a recent reminiscence about how brilliantly coloured oranges seemed at the end of World War 2 rationing.

Meanwhile, oranges became common in Northern America.  It is said that Christopher Columbus  carried sweet orange seeds on his second voyage to the New World in 1493.  In 1539 the first oranges were brought to Florida.  It was not until the United States acquired Florida in 1821 that orange growing became a profitable business.  By the 1880s refrigerated ships and new railroads meant that oranges could be transported from orange groves in Florida and California.  In 1919 the orange was the first fresh fruit to bear a trademark when Sunkist was burned onto the the skin.  Nutritionists began to promote the health benefits of orange juice and it became a common drink in America.

More recently oranges were very chic in the 1970s.  A twist of orange was as common as a sprig of parsley for garnishing dishes.  Or if you threw a dinner party, you might skewer some chunks of cheese and pineapple on toothpicks and stick them into an orange to make it resemble a hedgehog.

Oranges in Australian History
"It is very generally understood that there is no fruit more wholesome than the orange."  
in The Dawn, 1 June 1895, 'The medicinal value of oranges'

Oranges were brought to Australia with the First Fleet in 1788 and planted within days of arriving. In 1798, D. Collins, in one of those descriptively titled publications (An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales: with Remarks on the Dispositions, Customs, Manner, & c. of the Native Inhabitants of that Country) wrote that oranges were among ‘the delicious fruits of the Old, taking root and establishing themselves in our New World.’

Philip E Muskett in his 1893 book The Art of Living in Australia had a couple of orange dessert recipes such as Banana and Orange Salad.  Around the same time, Imperial Jellies were advertised with the suggestion of serving the jellies in orange halves.  I have looked over some of my older Twentieth Century Australian cookbooks and it seems the orange recipes were not uncommon.  Mostly desserts but also some salads.

In more recent history, I was interested in this information in the NSW Atlas.  "Twenty years ago, the juice market was stronger than the fresh fruit market, and Valencias [a juicing orange] dominated. Today imported juice concentrate has shrunk the market for juicing fruit and many Valencias have been replaced with navels [a superior table fruit]."

Oranges in mythology
  • Ancient peoples seem to have believed that orange (or red) fruits had magical properties, connecting them with blood and life force.  
  • The golden color of oranges led some mythmakers to link them with the sun.  
  • Oranges and orange blossoms are also symbols of love.
  • In Japanese myth, the emperor sent a hero named Tajima-mori to the Eternal Land, possibly southern China, to bring back the magical fruit, so that the emperor might gain immortality. He returned too late and took his own life because he had not completed his mission.  
  • The Chinese considered oranges magical, believing that the fruit brought good luck and joy and warded off evil spirits.
  • The Ancient Romans believed that oranges were brought to Italy by Herperides, the daughter of Atlas, who crossed the Mediterranean Sea from Africa in a giant shell.  
  • In Flemish legend, a young prince once went in search of a bride hidden within a magic orange in a land of sunshine and orange groves.  

Giving oranges at Christmas
"In the nineteenth century poor children dreamed all the year round of getting the precious, scented present of an orange for Christmas. Most of them did not know what an orange tasted like, or even if they would dare eat that golden, almost magical fruit."
in History of Food, Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat, translated by Anthea Bell, 1992 (p. 659)

As a child I remember reading books, such as Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, where the children were given oranges at Christmas.  It always seemed a mean present to me, in modern day Australia where oranges were plentiful and often in the fruit bowl.  Yet before the age of speedy transportation and reliable refrigeration, fresh oranges were still a treat.  After rationing Jane Grigson reminisces about Christmas oranges wrapped in silver paper.  They also would have fitted into Christmas stockings nicely.

There is another reason I found for oranges to be a Christmas fruit.  In the 1500s oranges and spices were so valuable that the Dutch gave gold and silver in exchange for them.  Sinterklaas, who became the Dutch Santa Claus, was also the Saint protecting sailors who brough oranges from Spain to the Netherlands.  Sinterklaas traditionally brings Dutch children presents including oranges. 

Orange in literature
“I got the blues thinking of the future, so I left off and made some marmalade. It's amazing how it cheers one up to shred oranges and scrub the floor.”
D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930)

Oranges are quite common in literature.  The Orange Prize for Fiction is one of the UK's most prestigious literary prizes.  Most of the references I found were in the Twentieth Century and beyond. Below is a sample of book titles:
  • A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  • Oranges are not the Only Fruit by Jeanette winterson
  • Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris
  • The Orange Girl by Jostein Gaarder
  • The Chinese Orange Mystery by Ellery Queen
  • Oranges and Sunshine (a memoir) by Margaret Humphreys
Children's books:
  • Oranges and Murder by Alison Prince
  • Oranges in No Man's Land by Elizabeth Laird
  • Orange, Pear, Apple, Bear by Emily Gravett
Margaret Atwood wrote a poem called "Against Still Life" in which she considers an orange on a table: "if I take the orange / with care enough and hold it / gently / I may find / an egg / a sun / an orange moon / perhaps a skull; center / of all energy / resting in my hand"

Oranges were also appreciated before our modern times.  As far back as Shakespeare we find Beatrice joking that Claudio is "civil as an orange" (II.i.256) in Much Ado About Nothing (referring to a bitter orange).  Lord Byron famously said "Seville is a pleasant city, famous for oranges and women" and Robert Louis Stevenson wrote "And every day when I've been good, / I get an orange after food."  Lemons and oranges were one of the orchard fruits at Christina Rosetti's Goblin Market.

Oranges on the telly:
Oranges aren't widely featured in titles of television shows.  There is an internet show that got a tv slot called The High Fructose Adventures of Annoying Orange and it is hard to search for anything about Orange on the web without stumbling across Orange County.  So it is no surprise that there was a tv show of this name.  My favourite television orange was the quirky Curious Orange on Lee and Herring's This Morning with Richard not Judy.  I also liked Inspector Morse's theory that "you go a funny colour if you eat too many oranges."

Oranges in song
Many of us grew us singing the children's nursery rhyme, Oranges and Lemons.  Bob Dylan sang about Orange Juice Blues, Deep Purple sang The Orange Juice Song, and REM sang "I've got my Orange Crush".  Scottish singer-songwriter, Al Stewart, called his fourth album Orange.  Edwin Collins fronted a band called Orange Juice and Pulp had a compilation album (Freshly Squeezed: the early years) with an orange on the cover.  The Fall wrote a soundtrack album I am Kurious Oranj for a contemporary ballet called I Am Curious Orange.  A live version of the soundtrack was released called I Am As Pure As Oranj.

Orange Trivia
  • Orange was first used as the name for a colour in 1542. 
  • The Battle of the Oranges is held each year in an Italian city called Ivrea.  It is a huge food fight where organised groups throw oranges at each other.
  • "Comparing apples to oranges" is a saying that is used when someone wants to impress that the two things in discussion are very different.
  • An average sized fresh orange has 70mg of vitamin C.  The daily recommended dose of vitamin C is 75mg for a woman and 90mg for a man.
  • An archaic law in California, stumbled across by Stephanie Alexander, rules that it is (was?) illegal to eat an orange in a a bath.
  • Some ancient civilizations used the juice and peel of oranges as antidotes for innumerable poisons.
  • English children make "orange-peel teeth;" they wedge a piece of the peeling over their gums on Halloween.
  • Oranges are a subtropical, not tropical fruit. 
  • Philip, Duke of Edinburgh is quoted as saying "Champagne and orange juice is a great drink. The orange improves the champagne. The champagne definitely improves the orange."
  • In 2006 New South Wales, Australia produced 245,000 tonnes of oranges and only 20,000 tonnes of other citrus fruits (lemons, mandarins and grapefruit). 
  • In the Carribean oranges are cut in half and used to clean floors, one in each hand, according to John McPhee's book Oranges.
  • The colour of an orange depends on where it grows. In more temperate climes, its green skin turns orange when the weather cools; but in countries where it’s always hot, the chlorophyll is preserved and the fruit stays green.
  • Many societies once believed that the touch of a woman would cause the foilage of an orange tree to wilt and droop (NB This was obviously overcome by World War II where women's work on the home front in Australia included picking oranges).

    Places called Orange
    • Orange in NSW, Australia is named by Thomas Mitchell who had been an associate of the Prince of Orange in the Peninsular War, when both were aides-de-camp to the Duke of Wellington
    • Orange is a city in France that gave its name to the Dutch Royal Family (see Orange History above)
    • New York was named New Orange by the Dutch before being taken over by the English.
    • Times Square used to be known as "Orange Juice Gulch."
    • Tel Aviv is known as the Big Orange due to orange production in Jaffa. 
    • Wikipedia has eighteen entries for places called Orange in the USA.
    • The Orange Free State was an independent Boer republic in southern Africa during the second half of the 19th century, and later a British colony and a province of South Africa.

    Words we associate with orange
    Searching for orange trivia has been a wee bit challenging as I kept coming across many non-fruit oranges - place names, the colour, phone companies, Agent Orange etc.  To make it even trickier some foods we associate with the orange fruit have become so common that new names have emerged.  Marmalade is the term for what we might have called orange jam.  The chocolate and orange flavour is often known as Jaffa.  Orange juice is often called OJ.  The Spanish also have a word "anaranjear" that means, literally, to “orangicate” or to pelt something with oranges.

    An Orange Salad
    Finally below is an excellent salad using oranges.  Orange flesh often disappears in recipes.  It is most a flavour - a squeeze of juice, a teaspoon of zest of just a touch of orange extract. I loved the freshness of oranges in this salad and how simply and beautifully they combine with the crunchy walnuts and smelly blue cheese.  It was also worth forking out for a bottle of walnut oil, which made the dressing special.

    I am sending this salad to Lisa for No Croutons Required (an event that she and Jacqueline organise).  This month the theme is a vegetarian soup or salad suited to summer.  This salad is light and refreshing, robust enough for a meal, and requires no cooking.

    Recipes featuring oranges on Green Gourmet Giraffe

    Orange recipes in on the internet

    Orange, walnut and blue cheese salad
    From Australian BBC Good Food (see the British version)
    Serves 4

    2 oranges
    200g salad greens (I used baby spinach, rocket and lettuce)
    1 tbsp walnut oil
    140g blue cheese
    75g (3/4 cup) walnuts, roughly chopped

    Peel the orange and chop into quarters above a small bowl to catch the juice.  Mix juice with the walnut oil.  Toss orange walnut dressing through the salad greens on a large shallow serving bowl.  Arrange orange chunks, crumbled blue cheese and walnuts over the greens.

    On the Stereo:
    Krautrockzeit: Die Kult Klassiker! - Various Artists


    1. Wow what a lot of orange history and related facts. Didn't know half of them! I've just eaten an orange with my breakfast, so I'm good to go!

      1. Thanks Katie - we bought more oranges today and I am looking forward to one for my breakfast after missing my daily one this morning

    2. I really love these informative posts of yours - I didn't know most of these orange facts. I often overlook them as a fruit because of the messiness, but do like finding them in fruit salads and freshly squeezed juice was a treat in our house when I was growing up too. We also always got an orange or apple in our Christmas stockings as a nod to times gone by - generally bypassed by us children as we went straight for the chocolate inclusions!

      (Also, thank you for your thoughts the last few days - so very appreciated. I am doing better each day, which bodes well I think.)

      1. Thanks Kari - I often overlook oranges because they are messy but have got into the groove with them lately. We never got lots of little things in our Christmas stocking so maybe that is why we never got one. Anyway, the only sort of orange I would like in my Christmas stocking would be a chocolate orange :-) Glad you are doing ok

    3. Wow thanks for sharing!! You always put so much work into your posts.

      Hey did you ever see the tv show I think from the late 80's/90s called Pugwall? I remember watching it as a was filmed in Melbourne and the kids on the show had a band called the "Orange Organics". I just quickly looked it up on youtube and it's hilarious... fits into the so bad it's good category.

      I think my favorite kind of oranges are blood oranges I love their sour sweetness. Only thing is I wish they would change their name to something like Ruby Oranges because the original name always makes me feel a tad queasy :)

      1. Thanks Tash - it is nice to put work into something I enjoy. Thanks for the tip about Pugwall. I never saw it but I wish I had - sounds like fun - will try and look it up on youtube. I agree about the name of blood oranges - maybe that is why I have never got really into them

    4. What a great post - so much information! Thank you for sharing all of that. Oranges aren't something I eat very much of at all - I tend to prefer apples, bananas and soft fruit in the summer, but it's interesting to read all about the history. I guess the exception I make is for marmalade!!!

      1. Thanks Caroline - I prefer stone fruit and apples over oranges but I think I could get used to eating them seasonally where I can look forward to local navels in winter when there is not much other fresh fruit in season

    5. Also Tropic of Orange! Great book; I wrote a paper on it when I was at uni in America :) I'd actually eat oranges in this incarnation, hurrah!

      1. Thanks Hannah - never heard of it before but it looks like a wacky book. It would be a strange work where you ate oranges but I would love to see it :-)

    6. Thanks for this slice of history. The salad looks light and refreshing.

      1. Thanks Cakelaw - the salad was great - just what is needed in the middle of winter but I think would be great in summer too

    7. Wow that was a lot of information about oranges, thanks Johanna! :D I crave them in Winter, perhaps I crave vitamin C :P

      1. Thanks Lorraine - I've never really got into oranges in winter before but I am thinking it might be a good craving

    8. Oh my. You did your research! Lovely post and wonderful recipe. Thanks so much for your entry to NCR.

      1. Thanks Lisa - I did do some research for this one - over some time - and I thought it might just be a good one for NCR

    9. I love love love LOVE these posts of yours and can only imagine how many hours of work go into them. Fabbo! And the salad looks great too :)

      1. Thanks Shauna - I enjoy these posts too - even though I get bogged down in them and feel I will never finish them - glad to share them

    10. Now I wonder if my kids would be impressed if I gave them an orange for Christmas...
      I just scoffed a blood orange for lunch, deeelicious. I love that there is such a small window when they are in season.

      1. Thanks Brydie - Good question - I wonder if some kids still get oranges for Christmas? I must hunt out some blood oranges

    11. I go back and forth on oranges a lot, I think because I generally want them to be grapefruits. But this salad does sound delicious!

      1. Thanks Joanne - I never understood grapefruit - always seemed like a sour orange and what was the point of that - but I wonder if grapefruit would work in this salad too if you like a bit more sour than I do!

    12. Wonderful post! Eating oranges over the sink is the best way. I love eating peaches over the sink too, but what I love about oranges is that they are not a summer harvest. They belong to fall and winter, so an orange-greens-bleu salad or even one of those kiddie orange and marshmallow salads is lovely on the Thanksgiving table.

      There is a restaurant in my town which has a Mexican pastry counter where they sell whole candied oranges. I've tried to make them at home but they never turn out quite right.

      1. Thanks Bliss - juicy collapsing fruit over the sink is one of life's pleasures - I have only recently discovered just what a winter fruit oranges are (though apparently the eating ones are in season in winter - navels - and the juicing ones - valencia - are in season in summer). I have bought a whole candied orange once and it was amazing - puts dried peel to shame :-) Never heard of orange and marshmallow salads

    13. This is one of your posts that I have to come back to later, so I can re-read all the juicy bits (pun intended!). That first photo of the oranges is spectacular--I can only imagine how much more flavorful and juicy yours are than the ones we get here!

      1. Thanks Ricki - I take a while to write these posts so I am not surprised if you need to take a while to read it


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