More than any other fruit, the orange is associated with and valued for its vitamin C content. But oranges have more to offer nutritionally than just this one nutrient. A small orange contains generous levels of folate (folic acid), potassium, and thiamin, as well as some calcium and magnesium. Compared to other citrus fruits, oranges have a broader range of uses: They can be added to various cooked or cold dishes, eaten as snacks, or squeezed for their delicious juice.

Orange trees are semitropical non deciduous trees and, like other citrus fruits, they probably originated in Southeast Asia. We take oranges for granted now , but at one time they were expensive and only rarely available in cooler climates.

The different varieties of oranges will be at their best during the midpoint of their growing seasons. Choose oranges that are firm, heavy for their size (they will be juiciest), and evenly shaped. The skin should be smooth rather than deeply pitted, although juice oranges are generally smoother than navels. Thin skinned oranges are juicier than thick-skinned varieties, and small to medium sized fruits are sweeter than the largest oranges. There is no need to worry about ripeness, oranges are always picked when they are ripe.

Skin colour is not a good guide to quality: Some oranges are artificially coloured with a harmless vegetable dye, while others may show traces of green although they are ripe. Through a natural process called "regreening," the skins of ripe oranges sometimes revert to green if there are blossoms on the tree at the same time as the fruit. This is because the tree produces chlorophyll to nourish the blossoms, and some of the pigment may be taken up by the mature fruit. Oranges that have "regreened" may actually be sweeter because they are extra-ripe.

Superficial brown streaks will not affect the flavour or texture of the fruit, but oranges that have serious bruises or soft spots, or feel spongy, should be avoided.

Oranges keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator. But they keep almost as well at room temperature, retaining nearly all of their vitamin content even after two weeks. (They will also yield more juice at room temperature.) Their sturdy peel protects them and they require no further wrapping. In fact, if oranges are placed in unperforated plastic bags the moisture trapped inside may encourage mould growth. If you like to eat oranges chilled, by all means refrigerate them.

Halve unpeeled oranges crosswise for juicing, or halve them either crosswise or lengthwise and then cut each half into thirds, for a juicy snack to be eaten from the peel. For garnishing, halve an orange lengthwise, then cut each half crosswise into slices.

Navel oranges peel easily if you insert your finger into the opening and pull back the peel. To peel other types of oranges, cut a disk of peel from the top, then cut slices of peel longitudinally from top to bottom. Finally, cut the remaining peel from the bottom. Or, peel spiral-fashion (as you would an apple) after removing a slice from the top. Separate the orange segments by cutting between the membrane and flesh with a sharp knife. Work over a bowl to catch the juices. For orange "cartwheels," just slice the peeled fruit crosswise.

If you need orange zest, use the fine side of a hand grater, a special zesting tool, a sharp paring knife, or a vegetable peeler to remove the zest from a scrubbed orange. Try not to scrape any of the bitter white pith from the fruit along with the coloured part of the peel. Check that the oranges you use for zest are not artificially coloured or waxed.