...the citrus for Christmas

By Shirley Hall Author of The New Caribbean Home Garden Guide

Even though our weather has been wetter than usual our orange trees are bearing in abundance. Men on trucks can be seen selling bags of peeled oranges, but not like a decade ago when Caroni’s orchards in Longdenville were productive. 

The orange originated in China as the small mandarin almost five thousand years ago. This delicious fruit has changed in size and shape to adapt to every climate where it was transplanted.  The orange slowly migrated to the Middle East about 800 AD, and made the trip to Europe seven centuries later. Supposedly the orange was brought to the Caribbean by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage and planted in what is now the Dominican Republic. 

The world famous Florida oranges were first planted around St Augustine before 1600, but it took two more centuries to travel across the United States to California. The orange is not just a tropical fruit, but can be grown in sub tropical areas where frost is not a problem.

My family had orange trees so they were common to us, yet with others it was a holiday treat. Now in out yard we have mandarin, dansi, and a seedless variety. (Note: To be termed seedless an orange must have less than seven seeds.) As it is mainly a winter crop northerners expected fresh oranges for Christmas holidays just as we did with grapes, pears and apples. 

Efficient steamship transport brought the orange to everyone at a reasonable price. Brazil leads a list of the world’s orange growers including the US, Mexico, Spain, and Israel.  Botanically sweet orange is citrus sinensis.

Our ripe oranges might appear slightly yellow but the name brands want perfect, brilliant orange fruits so the skin is injected with citrus red #2 dye. Florida oranges tend to be more orange than their tropical cousins. For us, oranges with smooth textured skins, firm and heavy are the better choice. Small, heavy oranges with thinner skins are usually the best for juice. To get the most juice from an orange let them warm in the sun first, then cut in half and remove the seeds. I prefer the old-fashioned hand squeezer. 

Oranges have both sweet and bitter varieties. Most of the oranges grown are round like king, osbeck, or dansi. More varieties of the orange are sweet  ‘parson brown’, seedless ‘hamlin’, ‘marrs’, valencia and the pineapple orange. The tangerine is a type of mandarin first grown in Tangiers, Morocco in 1841. Bitter oranges are used to make marmalade and liquers as triple sec, grand marnier, and cointreau.

Orange trees are perfect for the front or back yard landscape. First select the variety you love. Buy orange trees grafted off mandarin orange tree stock as the sour orange rootstock is developing a disease that seems to be incurable.  All types prefer well-drained loamy soil with a pH between 6 to 8. Oranges need full sunlight for the growth and production and should be about 20 feet apart. A good way to protect the new orange tree is to wrap some aluminum foil around the young trunk. The foil will protect against herbicide spray and bushwhacker damage. 

 Each orange has about 60 calories packed with Vitamins C, and B-1, fibre, and folate. One orange contains about 50mg. vitamin C; or two-thirds of our daily need. Remember how our grannies had dried orange peels hanging for use in flavouring tea? Seems they knew more then than we do today. Orange peels contain compounds known as ‘polymethoxylates (PMF)’, which have been tested to lower cholesterol significantly – as much as some prescription drugs! Just dry the peel and add to tea or boiling water. Chinese use dried mandarin peel to regulate their chi or flow of energy.


ORANGE SYRUP ON CORNBREAD – Cornbread is usually dry; try this as a appetizer 


Ingredients: Juice from at one orange, three TBS brown sugar, two TS chopped fresh rosemary sprigs or leaves

Method:  Peel and cut the orange rind into thin strips. Place the rind, sugar and orange juice in a saucepan over low heat. Continually stirring, cook for two minutes or until the sugar dissolves. Simmer for five minutes or until the mixture thickens slightly.

Pour over traditional cornbread mix.




Ingredients: Cup orange juice, quarter cup milk, two TS sugar, tray of ice cubes 

For slush combine the orange juice, milk, sugar, and ice cubes in a blender; blend until smooth.

For creamsicle, freeze in suitable container for an hour, remove to stir and refreeze. This will break up most of the ice crystals.


BROILED ORANGE PIECES – great, healthy holiday appetizers


Ingredients: One or two large oranges, one TBS grated coconut mixed with one TBS brown sugar brown sugar, one TS of cinnamon

Method: Slice orange in half and remove seeds. Carefully remove peel and slice orange into sections following the natural pattern of the orange. This will make it easy for bite size pieces

Turn your oven broiler on high. Sprinkle mixture of sugar and cinnamon onto orange. Place orange halves into an oven safe dish and broil for about six minutes or until the sugar is brown and bubbling. This little treat is best when it’s straight out of the oven.

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