The orange is a hybrid of ancient cultivated origin, possibly between pomelo (Citrus maxima) and mandarin (Citrus reticulata). It is an evergreen flowering tree generally growing to 9–10 m in height (although very old speciments have reached 15 m). The leaves are arranged alternately, are ovate in shape with crenulate margins and are 4–10 cm long. The orange fruit is a hesperidium, a type of berry.
Orange trees are widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical climates for the delicious sweet fruit, which is peeled or cut (to avoid the bitter rind) and eaten whole, or processed to extract orange juice, and also for the fragrant peel. In 2008, 68.5 million tons of oranges were grown worldwide, primarily in Brazil and the State of Florida in the US.
Oranges probably originated in Southeast Asia and were cultivated in China by 2500 BC. The fruit of Citrus sinensis is called sweet orange to distinguish it from Citrus aurantium, the bitter orange. The name is thought to ultimately derive from the Sanskrit for the orange tree, with its final form developing after passing through numerous intermediate languages.
In a number of languages, it is known as a “Chinese apple” (e.g. Dutch Sinaasappel, “China’s apple”, or northern German Apfelsine). (In English, however, “Chinese apple” generally refers to the pomegranate.)
Common oranges (also called “white”, “round” or “blond” oranges) make up about two-thirds of all oranges grown and include all oranges not described in one of the other three groups. They are used primarily for juice production.
The Valencia or Murcia orange is one of the sweet oranges used for juice extraction. It is a late-season fruit, and therefore a popular variety when the navel oranges are out of season. For this reason, the orange was chosen to be the official mascot of the 1982 FIFA World Cup, which was held in Spain. The mascot was called “Naranjito” (“little orange”), and wore the colours of the Spanish football team uniform.
Hart’s Tardiff Valencia
Thomas Rivers, an English nurseryman, imported this variety from the Azores Islands and catalogued it in 1865 under the name Excelsior. About 1870, he provided trees to S. B. Parsons, a Long Island Nurseryman, who sold trees to E. H. Hart of Federal Point, Florida.
The Hamlin orange was once the most important juice orange in Florida, replacing the inferior Parson Brown variety as the principal early-season juice orange. Today it is the predominant early-season orange grown in Florida and Brazil. It thrives in humid subtropical climates and is therefore found primarily in Florida and Brazil; cooler, more arid climates (such as California) produce edible fruit, but the size is too small for commercial use.