oranges, cook for your life

Orange You Glad?

By Chelsea Fisher

Oranges may seem like humble breakfast companions, but boy, this fruit is a champion in the nutrition department.

How so? How about all this: According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, oranges contain a number of phytochemicals, including cryptoxanthin, carotenoids, and flavanoids, that can help fight against a number of cancers. Cryptoxanthin, found in other fruits besides oranges, such as mangos, tangerines, and papayas, has been found to reduce the risk of cervical cancer. Found in many orange-colored fruits and vegetables, carotenoids may inhibit cancer cell growth and aid the immune system. Flavanoids may inhibit tumor growth and can boost the body’s production of detoxifying enzymes. Oranges are also a good source of thiamin, folate, potassium, fiber, and, of course, vitamin C — all of which are necessary for maintaining cell health. Quite the resume for a single fruit.

Orange juice is a great way to get the benefits of oranges. To get the real deal nutritionally, it’s best to juice fresh oranges rather than buying pre-packaged or juice already squeezed at the supermarket.

But don’t always drink your oranges, since the juice has less fiber and less of the beneficial nutrients found in the pith, the white covering under the orange rind.

Although oranges are available year-round, they have distinct seasons when they are at their best: November through April for navel varieties — the best eating oranges  and February until August for the thinner-skinned Valencia juice oranges. Less common are blood oranges, which are prized for their dark red juice. These come to market in January.

Click here for information on tangerines and clementines.

Chef Tips

For fresh juice every day, a small electric citrus juicer is a great investment for the kitchen.

If you find orange juice a bit too acidic, dilute it with a little water 1/3 cup water to 1 cup of orange juice, or to taste.  Buy oranges that are firm, smooth-skinned, and heavy for their size.

Also remember, smaller oranges are often juicier.  We find that keeping all citrus fruits in the fridge increases their juiciness. The orange color of an orange does not necessarily indicate whether or not it is ripe, especially for Valencias.  Even when they look a bit of green, they may taste great.

Recipe Tips

Oranges are great with fennel as a simple salad. Slice fennel and orange and add a vinaigrette made of red wine vinegar, a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. Orange juice also makes a great marinade for meats and fish, adding flavor and preserving moisture. The zest, or peel, of an orange has also been found to have health benefits, but when using zest, it’s best to buy organic to ensure there are no pesticides. Try our Orangey Tofu Chocolate Pudding and see how using a little orange zest can add big flavor to a basic dessert.

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