The sweetest and most fragrant of fruits, the modern orange also seems to be an entirely human-made creation for it is not found in the wild. Its nearest wild relative is the Mandarin orange, which originated in Southeast Asia.
It’s believed that the Chinese, well over two thousand years ago, became the first to cross the Mandarin orange with the pomelo. The pomelo is another wild-growing citrus and has sweet white pulp, and the resulting hybrid trees still give rise to the large sweet oranges we know today.
Oranges have long been considered a lucky fruit throughout Southeast Asia and are symbols of prosperity. They are especially popular as gifts and decorations at the time of the New Year.
At Christmastime, many Irish-American families have the custom of placing an orange in the toe of each Christmas stocking. This is believed to trace back to the times when good food was scarce and poverty rampant, and a gift like a fresh orange was a rare and special treat.
The orange tree’s small white blossoms, five-pointed like a star, are both beautiful and fragrant and are a traditional part of the bride’s bouquet or headpiece in many regions. This may be because the flowers give rise to such sweet fruit and represent the same hope for the marriage.
Oranges are grown in greater numbers throughout the world than any other fruit. They are eaten fresh or processed into very sweet juice, and are an excellent source of vitamin C.
The thick peels are very aromatic as well and have many uses. They can be grated and added to marmalade, fruit relishes, and alcoholic drinks. And it turns out that cats do not like the smell at all, so a few pieces of fresh orange peel can serve quite well as a harmless repellent to keep cats away from certain spots.
Though both Spain and the southwestern United States are famous for growing oranges, Brazil is actually the world’s largest producer with India and China following closely.
In very hot regions, you may see orange trees with their trunks and lower branches painted white. This is done to keep the sun from blistering the bark, especially with younger trees, and all that’s used is a mix of equal parts water and ordinary exterior latex housepaint.
Orange trees are easily grown in tropical and sub-tropical climates and make beautiful additions to a yard. You can sometimes grow small trees from seeds but it’s recommended that you buy a sapling tree, already grafted, from a local or online nursery.
Your new tree will need some space. It can mature to over thirty feet tall and ten to twelve feet wide, so it should be planted within a clear twenty-five foot circle. Consult the nursery for instructions on caring for your orange tree. It will probably begin producing fruit within three to four years after transplanting.
There is nothing like a cool spring morning with the scent of new orange blossoms on the breeze. With your own tree, you’ll never be out of oranges again – and neither will your family, friends, and neighbors!