Ep 17 - Oranges - Twelve Foods of Christmas
The tradition of oranges placed at the bottom toe-section of stockings stems back to stories of St Nicholas from the 4th century. St Nicholas encountered a man who had three daughters but was so poor that he was worried he would not be able to provide a dowry for them and that as a result they would remain unmarried. St Nicholas was a kind and generous man who wished to help the man without hurting his pride so one night whilst the man and his daughters slept, St Nicholas brought three bags of gold, one for each girl. Some stories say he slid down the chimney while others state he tossed the bags down the chimney and they landed in the girls freshly laundered stockings. In the morning they woke to find the gold which would enable them to marry. So began the tradition of stockings left to be filled by St Nicholas and oranges were used to represent the gold.
Oranges were extremely rare in Britain up until the 19th century and would have been reserved for the wealthy and beyond that they would still be considered a seasonal, exotic fruit.
All oranges branch off the genus of Citrus into either bitter oranges (C. aurantium) or sweet oranges (C. sinensis).
Both originate in Southeast Asia with bitter oranges being cultivated in the Indus Valley up to 6,000 years ago and introduced to the west from the Arabs around 1,000 AD and in the UK around the 15th century.
It’s easy to confuse one from the next but in actuality clementines, satsumas and manderins are all types of tangerines.
Tangerines originated in China and are sweet segmented citrus fruits whose skin seems ever so big for it. The name tangerines came about to differentiate those from Tangiers to the Chinese ones which became manderins.
Clementines are often smaller than the other varieties and originate from Algeria where they were found in a priests garden (Father Pierre Clementine) the unintentional cross of a mandarin and orange. Clementines for example contain less seeds and are sweeter than satsumas.
Satsumas are from Japan and have a very thin skin, are often seedless and slightly larger than clementines. In the UK satsumas were the traditional favourite of the small easy peelers. Yet today the numbers of satsuma orchards are going down across the world in favour of clementines.
60% of the worlds satsumas are imported to the UK.
Oranges are an excellent source of Vitamin C they are also good sources of folate, thiamine and potassium and bioflavonoids.
The pith contains a lot of the oranges fiber and natural antioxidants.
The membranes that separate and encase each segment of orange along with the pith contain lots of pectin which helps achieve setting point when making jams and marmalades.