The History of the Orange Tree
The orange tree (Citrus aurantium) is a small evergreen citrus revered for its fragrant blossoms and nourishing fruit. This tree thrives in warm climates and prefers moist, fertile, well-drained soil. Oranges are consumed for their flavor and high vitamin C content. They also contain significant amounts of calcium, potassium, vitamin A and thiamin.
The orange tree originated in the jungles of India. The word orange itself is derived from the Sanskrit "nagrungo," which became the Spanish "naranja," and consequently the Italian "arancia," and the Provencal "orange," according to the "Encyclopedia Britannica." Oranges are praised in the ancient Indian pharmaceutical text the "Charaka Samhita" for their restorative qualities.
Oranges in East Asia and Europe
From India, oranges were imported to China. According to the "Yu Kung" manuscript, oranges and pomelos (the predecessor of the grapefruit) were offered as a gift to the Chinese Emperor Tayun, who reigned from 2205 until 2197 B.C, according to Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat's "The History of Food." As in India, oranges were recognized in China for their nutritive properties, being noted in such texts as "Thousand Prescriptions of Great Price" and "Remedies for Immortality."
Oranges traveled along trade routes such as the Silk Road from Asia to the Mediterranean. In the 2nd century A.D. these luscious fruits made their debut on the banquet tables of wealthy Romans. They began to be cultivated in Northern Africa and Spain. Louis XIV ordered orange trees to be planted at Versailles, where their sweetly scented blossoms were used to decorate the Hall of Mirrors on special occasions. Orange blossoms have also been used to make an essential oil called "neroli," commonly used in perfumery.
Oranges in the Americas
Oranges were brought to the Americas with Spanish colonization. The first orange tree in the Western Hemisphere was planted in Haiti (then known as Hispaniola) in November 1493. In the United States, oranges became a staple crop in Florida and California. In the 1940s, frozen orange juice concentrate was developed by the United States Department of Agriculture and the Florida Citrus Commission. This product was shipped to war-torn Europe to provide nutrients to mothers and children.