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Ways to Serve Oranges

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Oranges can be served in a wide variety of ways, They can be eaten out of hand, used in cooking, made into marmalade, or pressed to make juice. Their zest and pulp can be candied. Oranges are often added to fruit salads, soufflés, flans, crêpes, ice cream, sorbets, and punch.

Oranges can also be added to savory dishes; they can be used in sauces, salad dressings, vegetables, rice salads, chicken salads, and seafood. Orange blend well with fish, duck, beef, and pork.

Bitter oranges can be cooked to make marmalade, jam, jelly, syrup, or sauce.

Favorite orange recipes

How to Make Orange Marmalade

Candied Orange Peel

Greens, Orange, and Beet Salad

Orange slices ripe

Serving oranges

Oranges can be divided into two broad categories: sweet oranges and bitter oranges.

Sweet oranges have a sweet and juicy flesh and are found in both savory and sweet dishes. They are eaten out of hand, as a breakfast fruit, snack, or dessert. They can be sectioned and served in fruit salads or compotes, chicken or turkey salads, or as a topping for tarts. The grated rind or juice of sweet oranges is used to flavor soufflés, sauces, glazes or creams, mousses, and sorbets.

Bitter or sour oranges have a dry flesh that is too bitter for eating out of hand. But the peel of the bitter orange is aromatic and flavorful and can be used to make marmalades, candies, sauces, syrups, and liqueurs.

The sweet oranges’ distinctive flavor is a blend of sugar and acid. Sweet oranges are round to oval in shape and can be further divided into three groups: navel, common, and blood oranges.

Add oranges cooked or raw to sweet and savory dishes. Here are a few ideas:

  • Use sweet oranges as a breakfast fruit, snack, or dessert.
  • Add orange sections or slices to fruit salads or compotes.
  • Use oranges to garnish chicken or turkey salads and seafood.
  • Blend oranges with fish, duck, beef, and pork dishes
  • Use oranges to flavor savory dishes, vegetables, sauces, and salad dressings.
  • Use oranges to flavor cakes, curds, tarts, gelatin molds, and puddings.
  • Add oranges to soufflés, flans, crêpes, sherbet, and ice creams
  • Use grated orange rind to flavor custards, creams, doughs, stews, pastries, and cookies.
  • Orange zest and pulp can be candied.
  • Use bitter oranges to make marmalade, jam, jelly, syrup, or sauce.
  • Press oranges to make juice.

Ways to cook oranges

  • Bake oranges: Remove the orange peel and all-white membrane then cut the orange in half crosswise. Glaze and bake until hot (15 to 25 minutes depending on the size of the fruit).
  • Grill oranges: Cut the orange in half crosswise or into ¾-inch slices. Grill until hot and streaked with brown (about 5 minutes for slices, 10 minutes for halves).
  • Poach oranges: Peel and remove all white membranes from the orange. Simmer in poaching liquid until hot.
  • Sauté oranges: Peel and remove all white membranes. Cut crosswise into ½-inch slices. Sauté until hot (about 3 minutes).

Orange flavor partners

Oranges have a flavor affinity for almonds, avocado, beets, black olives, chicken, chocolate, cinnamon, custards, fennel, mint, olive oil, red onion, roast pork, salad greens, seafood, sherry vinegar, sweet potatoes, vanilla, and winter squash.

How to choose an orange

Select an orange that is firm and heavy for its size. A heavy orange will be a juicy orange. Avoid oranges that are spongy or have mold. Rough brown russeting on the rind of an orange will not affect the flavor or quality. A slight greening of the orange rind will not affect the quality. An orange with a green tint to its rind can be ripe and ready for use.

Color is not a good indicator of quality; some oranges are dyed and some fully ripened oranges such as Valencia may regreen. Brown surface patches do not mean the orange is unripe or spoiled, but rather that it was grown in a very warm and usually humid region.

Avoid oranges that are soft or moldy.

Amount: Three medium-sized or 2 large oranges equal about one pound of segments.

Orange Seville
Seville orange

How to store oranges

Oranges will keep at room temperature for up to 1 week and in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks; they will store in a cool, dark place in the kitchen for a week.

Whole or segmented oranges are not recommended for freezing. Orange juice can be frozen in plastic containers for up to one year.

Oranges harvest time

There are differing peak seasons for oranges depending upon variety. Valencia oranges are in season from late spring to mid-summer. Navels are best from mid-winter to early spring and blood oranges are at their peak from early winter until early spring. Sour oranges are harvested beginning in late fall and the harvest continues through spring depending upon the region and climate

Sweet orange types

The sweet oranges’ distinctive flavor is a blend of sugar and acid. Sweet oranges are round to oval in shape and can be further divided into three groups: navel, common, and blood oranges. Here’s how these three sweet oranges compare:

Navel oranges

Navel oranges have thick, rough, bright orange skins that are easy to peel. They are large and seedless with a rich, juicy flavor, and their segments are easy to separate. Sweet oranges develop a small second fruit within the larger fruit at the blossom end of the orange. Where the second fruit develops is an indentation that looks like a human navel and thus the name. The Washington navel orange is the original and best-known navel orange. Other navel orange varieties are Cara Cara, Fukumoto, Lane Late, Robertson, Skaggs Bonanza, and Spring. The peak harvest for navel oranges is from mid-winter through early spring.

Comm oranges

Common oranges are round or slightly oval and medium-sized with a thin, smooth rind. They have a sweet-acid flavor and are juicier than navel oranges. Common oranges also have more seeds and are more difficult to peel than navel oranges. Common oranges are sold fresh for eating out of hand, but more importantly, almost all orange juice is squeezed from common oranges. The Valencia orange—the most popular orange in the world—is a common orange. Other common orange varieties include Trovita, Hamlin, Jaffa, Marrs, Parson Brown, and Pineapple. The peak harvest for common oranges is from late spring to mid-summer.

Blood oranges

Blood oranges are similar in size to common oranges but with a red blush skin and streaked to full scarlet, crimson, or purple flesh. The blood orange is juicy and has a sweet-tart taste that is rich, flavorful, and often hints of berry. Blood oranges are popular for eating out of hand, juicing, and as garnishes for sweet and savory dishes. The best-known blood orange varieties are Sanguinello, Moro, and Tarocco. The peak harvest for blood oranges is from early winter to early spring.

Sour oranges

Sour oranges are also called bitter oranges. These are oranges that are not sweet tasting.

Bitter or sour oranges usually have a thick, dimpled, deep-orange colored peel, and a sometimes pithy flesh. Bitter oranges are usually not eaten fresh because the flesh is too tart and bitter tasting. The sour flavor of these oranges is a result of the fruits’ acidic juices; the bitterness is due to its essential oils. The peel and juice of sour oranges are used to make marmalades, candies, sauces, syrups, pies, flavorings, and liqueurs. The best-known sour oranges are Seville, Bouquet de Fleurs (also called Bouquet), Chinotto, and Bergamot. Sour oranges are harvested beginning in late fall and the harvest continues through spring depending upon the region and climate.

Sour oranges are higher in natural pectin—a gelling agent—than sweet oranges. That makes them ideal for use in marmalades, jellies, and preserves.

  • The best-known sour oranges are Seville, Bouquet de Fleurs (also called Bouquet), Chinotto, and Bergamot.
  • Sour oranges are harvested beginning in late fall and the harvest continues through spring depending upon the region and climate.
  • Sour oranges have both a sour taste and an astringent or bitter taste.
  • The sourness of an orange is due to the fruit’s acidic acid–think of the taste of lemons and limes.
  • The bitterness of an orange is associated with its essential oils–think of the taste of orange rind or pith.
  • Sour is usually considered a more pleasant taste than bitter.
  • Sour oranges are almost never eaten out of hand or as a fresh fruit. They are used to make orange marmalade, sauces, chutney, candied fruit, pies, flavorings, and liqueurs such as Grand Marnier, curaçao, and Cointreau.
  • Sour orange fruit and blossoms are used in China to make teas and herbal medicines. They are also used in making orange flower water, perfumes, and rind oil.
  • Sour oranges usually have a deep-orange colored fruit, are large, and are juicy. They have a thick dimpled skin.
  • Sour oranges are higher in natural pectin—a gelling agent–than sweet oranges. That makes them ideal for use in marmalades, jellies, and preserves.

Blood oranges

  • Blood orange is a type of sweet orange that has red blush skin and is streaked to full scarlet, crimson, or purple flesh. It is juicy and has a sweet-tart taste that is rich, flavorful, and often hints of berry.
  • Blood oranges are sometimes called the connoisseur’s or gourmet’s citrus. That is because the flavor of blood oranges is distinctive and refreshing with rich overtones of raspberries and strawberries.
  • Blood oranges are popular for eating out of hand, juice, and garnishes. Blood-orange sections can enliven any fruit mixture or salad, and the blood orange can be used as a garnish for savory or sweet dishes.
  • Blood oranges range in size from small- to medium-sized, and their skin is usually pitted but can be smooth. They contain few to no seeds.
  • The red color of the blood orange is the result of a natural pigment called anthocyanin which is common to red fruits, flowers, and trees—but usually not oranges.
  • Light, temperature, and variety can affect the degree of crimson pigmentation of particular blood oranges. The rind coloration and the flesh coloration have different requirements. The flesh color of blood oranges is usually deeper in hotter regions.
  • Blood oranges are suited to regions with wide fluctuations between day and night temperatures. The fruit needs warm days for sugars to form and cool nights for color to develop. The color of the rind of a blood orange that has been shielded from the sun will be more intense than one that has been exposed to the direct sun.

Sour orange varieties

  • Seville (sometimes called bigarade orange) has a medium size fruit that is more flat in shape than a sweet orange. It has a deep orange skin that is rough and slightly loose. It can be seedy. It is juicy and very tart and sour tasting. The Seville is most often used for making marmalade.
  • Bouquet de Fleurs has a medium-sized, flattened fruit and orange-colored rind. It has few seeds and is easy to peel. It is juicy and sour-tasting. Bouquet is considered the most fragrant of all oranges. It is used in the making of French perfumes.
  • Chinotto is also called the myrtle-leaf orange. It has a small flattened fruit and a deep orange rind that is loosely adherent. It can be seedy. It is juicy and sour. Chinotto is used for making candy in Italy, and it is used for making jellies and preserves.
  • Bergamot orange is a small, somewhat pear-shaped orange. It is said to be a cross between a pear lemon and Seville orange and grapefruit. The trees of this orange are called bergamots, and they are most successfully grown on the Ionian coast of Italy in the province of Reggio Calabria. This orange is used to make bergamot oil a component of many perfumes and teas such as Earl Grey tea.

Blood orange varieties

  • Moro has a rich citrus flavor and a deep raspberry aftertaste. It is juicy but firm and has a seedless pulp. The Moro is a full-blood orange—meaning the flesh ranges from orange-veined with ruby coloration to vermilion to vivid crimson to nearly black. It is the most colorful of the blood oranges, and its flesh darkens as the season progresses. The Moro is a small- to medium-sized citrus and its reddish-orange rind is thick with a medium-fine grain. It has few to no seeds and can be difficult to peel. The Moro is thought to have originated at the beginning of the nineteenth century in Sicily. It is ready for harvest from winter to early spring.
  • Sanguinelli shares several characteristics of the Moro but is smaller, more compact, and slightly oblong in shape. The flesh of the Sanguinelli is orange with multiple blood-colored streaks, and its rind can be yellow to bright cherry red. It has few to no seeds. The Sanguinelli was discovered in Spain in 1929. It is a late full-blood orange that usually matures in mid-winter but can keep on the tree unspoiled until spring.
  • Tarocco has a balanced full sweet flavor with berry overtones. It is said to be sweeter and more flavorful than the Moro or Sanguinelli. It has a delicate pink to red-suffused flesh and red juice. Because the Tarocco’s flesh is not as deeply colored as the Moro or Sanguinelli it is called a half-blood orange. The Tarocco is seedless and has an orange rind with slightly blushed red tones. It is a medium-sized fruit and is easy to peel. Tarocco is native to Italy and may have derived from the Sanguinelli. It is the most popular table orange in Italy and one of the most popular oranges in the world because of its sweetness and juiciness. The Tarocco has the highest vitamin C content of an orange.
  • It comes to harvest from early to mid-winter.

About sour oranges

  • Sour oranges are sometimes referred to as Persian oranges. It is thought that sour oranges originated in the region of modern-day Iran.
  • Persian oranges traveled to southern Europe with Arab traders and were introduced into Italy in the eleventh century. Portuguese, Spanish, Arab, and Dutch sailors planted citrus along trade routes to prevent scurvy.
  • The sweet orange came to Europe in the fifteenth century from India, brought by Portuguese traders. It soon grew more popular than the sour orange that had preceded it.
  • Columbus brought orange seeds to Haiti on his second voyage in 1493. Oranges were introduced to Florida in 1513 by the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon.
  • The botanical name of the bitter orange is Citrus aurantia.

Get to know oranges

All oranges thrive in warm regions where the summers are warm and the winters are cool but not freezing. Sweet orange trees grow to as much as 30 feet tall. The bitter orange grows on a smaller tree that might be described as a spiny shrub. With their dark green leaves that stay on the plant throughout the year and their fragrant white flowers, oranges are considered among the most beautiful of plants.

Oranges can differ depending on where they are grown. Oranges originating in more tropical regions are thinner-skinned, juicier, contain less acid, and are paler in color than oranges grown in cooler or sub-tropical regions. The most flavorful oranges are grown where the days are hot and the nights are cool. Sugar forms during hot days and acid during cool nights to create the tastiest oranges.

Bitter and sweet oranges resist cold better than other citrus such as limes or lemons. The bitter orange generally resists cold better than the sweet orange.

The bitter orange was the first orange. It is native to southeastern China where it has been cultivated for thousands of years. From China, the bitter orange spread to India and Japan and later to the Middle East and the Mediterranean region, Spain and Morocco by about 1000 A.D.

The sweet orange is also native to Southern China. It traveled to the Mediterranean region in about 1450, several hundred years after the sour orange, and from there to other warm parts of the world

Both the bitter and sweet orange were brought to the Americas by Spanish and Portuguese explorers in the sixteenth century.

The orange does not get its name from its color but from the Sanskrit word naranga which means “fragrant”. Naranga became naranj in Persian and later became aurantium in Latin and arancia in Italian and later became orange in French and English.

The botanical name for the sweet orange is Citrus sinensis. The botanical name for the bitter orange is Citrus aurantium.

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Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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