Sweet oranges are the ones we eat raw, such as Jaffa oranges, rather than Seville or bitter oranges which are used for marmalades. They are members of the Rutaceae family of plants and so related to the grapefruit, lemon, pomelo, kinnow or mandarin, Persian lime, etc. They originated in Asia and spread through to the Indian subcontinent and from there into the Middle East. Arab traders or the Moors took them to Spain where they have been cultivated for centuries.
  Christopher Columbus is believed to have taken seeds from the orange to the Caribbean islands, in the 15th century, and Spanish explorers took them to Florida in the 16th century.
 Oranges were expensive in Europe prior to the 20th century and were eaten on special holidays such as Christmas. Traditionally children got an orange tucked into the toe part of the stocking they hung up for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. They have been used as pomanders, and stuck with cloves and were used in this way during the Renaissance. Leonardo da Vinci painted the “Last Supper” and featured an orange or two, but at the time of Christ oranges were unknown in the Middle East, so this is an anachronism.
   The peel from a sweet orange can be used fresh when grated and is especially good in carrot cakes, or it may be dried and added to pot pourris along with some cinnamon and cloves, and orange in red wine along with spices makes a good mulled winter wine.
   The word orange comes from the Sanskrit nagarang by way of Arabic naranj; in Portuguese it is laranjas, and naranga in Spanish, while in Greek it is portokali (from Portugal), demonstrating how oranges spread through to Greece from the Portuguese explorers and traders.
  The orange has more than the daily recommended amount of vitamin C in it, and the fresh orange is a good source of dietary fibre, eaten with the pith and skin of the segments. In fact the flavanone herperidin, which is believed to help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and have anti-inflammatory properties, is present in this white pith and the peel of the orange. If you juice an orange you lose some of its health benefits.
  Oranges and other citrus fruit can reduce the severity of rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, asthma and other inflammatory ailments. Eating an orange is actually better than taking a vitamin C supplement. The folate present in all citrus fruit lowers the risk of cardio-vascular diseases according to the WHO’s report “Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases.” The carotenoids in oranges offer protection for the heart, and of course oranges contain beta-carotene, hence their colour. The vitamins and minerals in oranges have potent antioxidant properties and are it is thought that oranges and other citrus fruits can help protect against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases, cognitive impairment associated with the aging process, macular degeneration, diabetes, gallstones, and a number of other serious diseases. They potentially have anti-cancer properties as well as anti-tumour ones. Oranges’ phytonutrients, flavonoids and polyphenols are still being investigated by researchers.
  Apart from large amounts of vitamin C, oranges have vitamin A, E and K along with the minerals calcium, iron, copper, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, manganese, selenium and zinc. They also contain some of the B-complex vitamins and 17 amino acids. Oranges also contain a little Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids.
  The leaves and flowers dried or fresh, can be made into a decoction and used for flatulence, stomach disorders, and this is used as an anti-spasmodic an a cardiac sedative. Orange Flower water also has antispasmodic properties.  The limonene content in oranges means that house flies and fleas can be eliminated, and its insecticide properties are being investigated. Orange Flower water is the liquid left after the oil of the flowers has undergone a distillation process. The oil is used in the perfume industry as “Neroli petulae” which is not as expensive as the essential oil “Neroli”, which used to be the main ingredient of Eau de Cologne, which is not really popular any more. Orange oil is used in soaps and in candle-making too.
  In traditional medicine systems, the leaves from the sweet orange tree have been used in infusions and decoctions for skin problems such as acne, and a tisane is given as an expectorant.
 However if you have an orange every day you will be able to combat colds and flu as the vitamins and minerals will boost your immune system so that it can ward off these winter ailments. You will feel better for this healthy addition to your diet.
  The orange sauce recipe will go well with roast duck, kebabs and rice and other savoury dishes. You do not need to add sugar. To zest an orange use a sharp knife and avoid the white pith. Use a zester if you have one - a small knife-like kitchen tool with holes at the end that works a little like a grater.

Duck with orange sauce
Juice of 2 oranges,
Zest of 1 orange
¼ pint (100ml) chicken stock
10 black peppercorns, lightly crushed

Put all the ingredients together in a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer until the liquid has reduced by half.
This has Taste and is a Treat.

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