Oranges are not just for eating!

The last two Cooking Tips discussed lemons and limes. In this Cooking Tip, I want to expand on what is probably the citrus that is most commonly eaten out of hand – Oranges. Oranges are not just for eating, though. They can be used to delicious effects in your culinary creations.

Oranges can be divided into two major categories – Sweet and Bitter. There are over 400 varieties of oranges. Let’s discuss just a few. Within the sweet category, you find the common orange, blood orange, navel orange and acid-less orange. For the bitter category, it is further subdivided into the Seville orange and Bergamot orange.

  • Valencia oranges are one of the most common in the US. It is sweet with low acidity and a bright orange color. It can be eaten but is more commonly juiced.
  • Navel oranges are the most popular eating orange. It is a bit more bitter than Valencia with a thicker peel but no seeds. Besides eating out of hand, they can be thrown in salads or compotes or used in your cooking/baking.
  • Clementines are a hybrid of a sweet orange and a mandarin. They are very small, very sweet, very juicy and seedless with a very loose skin.
  • Cara Cara oranges are a type of naval orange that are pink in color. The flavor is very sweet but also complex with berry undertones.
  • Blood oranges are thought to be a natural mutation of a regular orange. Its flesh is red due to a high level of anthocyanins, an antioxidant that is not present in most oranges. They are very pretty but less sweet than the Cara Cara. Recommended uses are in salads, compotes, vinaigrettes or just eating out of hand.
  • Tangerines (also known as mandarins) are an orange-colored citrus although not technically an orange. The zest is delightful in baking. Other uses include salads or in cooking.
  • Bitter oranges (Seville or sour orange) are not generally eaten or juiced for drinking due to the absence of sweetness. The peel is extremely fragrant and is often used as a flavoring. These are often used in marmalade as well as in vinaigrettes and other culinary uses.
  • Bergamot orange is a hybrid of the lemon and bitter orange. It is lime-green or yellowish in color. The peel can be either smooth or bumpy and it is full of seeds. The juice is extremely sour. The essential oil from this orange is what is used to flavor Earl Grey tea.
  • Lima oranges are an acid-less orange. Although not zero, the acid level is very low. This results in a sweeter flavor. The flesh is lighter than other oranges.

When choosing an orange in the store, it should have a fragrant, citrusy scent. Similar to lemons and limes, select an orange that feels heavy. When squeezing it, the flesh should be firm, not soft or squishy.

What culinary uses (other than eating and drinking the juice) are there for oranges? Again, the zest is where the essential oils lie and can give you a great flavor burst. Add it to vinaigrettes, marinades, sauces and even in baked goods.

Tossing oranges in salads is a great idea. To do this, you might want to learn how to make supremes, which produces orange segments with no pith or membranes. Here is a video on how to do this.

Drinking fresh-squeezed orange juice can be a delight but that juice can also be used in other beverages as well as ice creams and sorbets. Juice can also be part of the liquid you use to cook couscous, adding a delightful flavor.

I love the flavor of oranges and love using it in my cooking and baking. How about you? If you only eat or drink your oranges, branch out and experiment with using them in your cooking and baking. They can give you delicious results!