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Are Oranges Citrus or Are They Actually Berries?

I've lived in Arizona for 70 years (Tucson, Glendale, and Sedona). I love writing about Arizona history, antiques, books and travel.

"Carload of Mammoth Navel Oranges From La Mesa," vintage postcard from 1911

"Carload of Mammoth Navel Oranges From La Mesa," vintage postcard from 1911

Oranges Are Both Citrus and a Berry

Oranges are a popular citrus fruit, but botanists also consider oranges a hesperidium (member of the berry family) because it is the ovary of the orange blossom that creates the fleshy fruit carpels or sections.

For many years orange blossoms were associated with female fertility and because of their association with female fertility, they were a popular flower for bridal bouquets.

Origin of Oranges

Sources agree that the first oranges were grown in southern China, but parts of India and the area that is now Vietnam also claim that oranges were first grown there.

From Asia, oranges were brought to the Mediterranean countries and on to Spain. Some sources credit Christopher Columbus for bringing oranges to the West Indies, but this can't be verified. What can be verified is that oranges were being cultivated in the area that is now Florida as early as 1565 and that oranges were growing in California since about 1870.

Florida orange grove in a vintage postcard

Florida orange grove in a vintage postcard

The Navel Orange and Other Varieties

The navel orange is a "twin fruit." Some say that the navel orange was developed at a monastery in Brazil as the result of a mutation that caused a smaller or twin fruit to develop inside, causing the outside to resemble a human navel. The types of oranges fall into sweet oranges and bitter oranges. Most people recognize navel oranges as a favorite eating orange, and the Valencia orange as a popular juice orange, and many other varieties of oranges such as scarlet navels, mandarin, cara cara, blood, and Seville oranges are becoming more available. Many varieties are available year-round through better shipping and storage methods, but many older people remember looking forward to finding an orange in their Christmas stocking, which was a rare treat.

"The Box from California I Promised You," vintage postcard

"The Box from California I Promised You," vintage postcard

Symbolism of the Color Orange

Red and yellow colors combined make various shades of the color orange. Orange is considered a color of fire, warmth, sunsets, good health, and joy. In some religions, such as Hinduism, orange is the most sacred chakra.

Citrus harvest in Florida as depicted in a vintage postcard

Citrus harvest in Florida as depicted in a vintage postcard

Where Are Oranges Grown?

Oranges can be grown from seed or by grafting. In the United States, since oranges are sensitive to cold, they are grown in Florida (known as the Orange Blossom State), California, Texas, and Arizona.

The house our family lived in when I was in grade school in Tucson, Arizona, had several orange and other citrus trees in our backyard. There were several commercial citrus groves nearby. Two weeks before Christmas, my mom would pick and pack citrus fruits to send to our extended family in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Roadside citrus stands were common, but now I'm sad to say that in Tucson and other cities in Arizona, many of the orange groves were bulldozed to make room for houses and commercial buildings. Currently, Brazil is the largest grower and shipper of oranges.

Because oranges were once considered an exotic fruit, the orange groves and oranges themselves were featured on a number of early postcards and advertisements. Some of these postcards were sent by various growers and shippers advertising their oranges by the crate. Other orange-related postcards featured the fruit next to orange blossoms. (In reality, the fruit should have been picked before the blossoms appeared.) Two of my Florida motel postcards advertised, "Come stay in an orange grove."

The Benefits and Uses of Oranges

Eating a medium-sized orange contains about 70 calories and while most people associate oranges and orange juice with vitamins C and D, an orange is also packed with Thiamine and Potassium which are believed to protect against heart disease and cancer. Some of the major companies selling orange juice have also added calcium.

Orange oil is used in a variety of cleaning and polishing products. Currently, several cosmetic companies are advertising orange cremes and oils in their cosmetics, and oranges in aromatherapy products are used widely. Orange peels can be heat compressed into feed for cattle. Orange blossom honey is created where varieties of seeded oranges which require pollination are grown by placing their hives among the orange trees. The smell of orange blossoms always makes me sentimental for my childhood.

When sliced thin or grated, orange peels and juice are wonderful in sauces, and marmalades, candies, and oranges make beautiful garnishes. Cooking with oranges is almost limitless as oranges can flavor meat dishes such as Orange Beef, Orange Chicken, or oranges make wonderful glazes for vegetables. Baking with oranges can be used for breads, muffins, cakes, and cookies topped with orange-flavored icing.

On many a hot day, I can be found eating an orange juice bar, or a 50/50 orange dreamsicle.

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