The Sweet Oranges
iPhoneOgraphy – 01 Dec 2016 (Day 336/366)
The orange (specifically, the sweet orange) is the fruit of the citrus species Citrus × sinensis in the family Rutaceae.
The fruit of the Citrus × sinensis is considered a sweet orange, whereas the fruit of the Citrus × aurantium is considered a bitter orange. The sweet orange reproduces asexually (apomixis through nucellar embryony); varieties of sweet orange arise through mutations.
The orange is a hybrid, between pomelo (Citrus maxima) and mandarin (Citrus reticulata). It has genes that are ~25% pomelo and ~75% mandarin; however, it is not a simple backcrossed BC1 hybrid, but hybridized over multiple generations. The chloroplast genes, and therefore the maternal line, seem to be pomelo. The sweet orange has had its full genome sequenced. Earlier estimates of the percentage of pomelo genes varying from ~50% to 6% have been reported.
Sweet oranges were mentioned in Chinese literature in 314 BC. As of 1987, orange trees were found to be the most cultivated fruit tree in the world. Orange trees are widely grown in tropical and subtropical climates for their sweet fruit. The fruit of the orange tree can be eaten fresh, or processed for its juice or fragrant peel. As of 2012, sweet oranges accounted for approximately 70% of citrus production.
In 2013, 71.4 million metric tons of oranges were grown worldwide, production being highest in Brazil and the U.S. states of Florida and California.
The orange is unknown in the wild state; it is assumed to have originated in southern China, northeastern India, and perhaps southeastern Asia, and that they were first cultivated in China around 2500 BC.
In Europe, the Moors introduced the orange to Spain which was known as Al-Andalusia, modern Andalusia, with large scale cultivation starting in the 10th century as evidenced by complex irrigation techniques specifically adapted to support orange orchards. Citrus fruits – among them the bitter orange, introduced to Italy by the crusaders in the 11th century – were grown widely in the south for medicinal purposes, but the sweet orange was unknown until the late 15th century or the beginnings of the 16th century, when Italian and Portuguese merchants brought orange trees into the Mediterranean area. Shortly afterward, the sweet orange quickly was adopted as an edible fruit. It also was considered a luxury item and wealthy people grew oranges in private conservatories, called orangeries. By 1646, the sweet orange was well known throughout Europe.
Spanish travelers introduced the sweet orange into the American continent. On his second voyage in 1493, Christopher Columbus may have planted the fruit in Hispaniola. Subsequent expeditions in the mid-1500s brought sweet oranges to South America and Mexico, and to Florida in 1565, when Pedro Menéndez de Avilés founded St Augustine. Spanish missionaries brought orange trees to Arizona between 1707 and 1710, while the Franciscans did the same in San Diego, California, in 1769. An orchard was planted at the San Gabriel Mission around 1804 and a commercial orchard was established in 1841 near present-day Los Angeles. In Louisiana, oranges were probably introduced by French explorers.
Archibald Menzies, the botanist and naturalist on the Vancouver Expedition, collected orange seeds in South Africa, raised the seedlings onboard and gave them to several Hawaiian chiefs in 1792. Eventually, the sweet orange was grown in wide areas of the Hawaiian Islands, but its cultivation stopped after the arrival of the Mediterranean fruit fly in the early 1900s.
As oranges are rich in vitamin C and do not spoil easily, during the Age of Discovery, Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch sailors planted citrus trees along trade routes to prevent scurvy.
Around 1872, Florida farmers obtained seeds from New Orleans. Many orange groves were established by grafting the sweet orange onto sour orange rootstocks.