Christopher Columbus, on his second voyage to the Americas, planted the first orange tree in the Americas on the isle of Haiti, November 22, 1493. The oranges soon spread over all of the West Indies and finally reached Florida in the hands of Miguel Diaz. From Florida, a Spanish missionary trekked to California and planted the ancestor of the California oranges in 1707. By the time of the gold rush, wise pioneers found "gold" in tending orange trees and shipping and selling the prized fruit to alcoholic, malnourished miners who had scurvy.
After being handpicked from orange trees by highly trained workers, oranges receive a makeover. They are washed in a tub of warm, soapy water, and then take a bath in a disinfectant. After bathing, the oranges are dried for several hours in a large aerated room to firm up their skins. The oranges are then polished with soft brushes and lightly waxed until they are attractive and shiny. The wax helps the oranges keep their vitamins, which would evaporate through the unwaxed skin during shipping. Before you eat an orange, wash it in warm water and wipe it dry, if you are going to eat the peel.
Navel oranges are nicknamed "eating oranges," while Valencia oranges carry the "juicing oranges" name. Both oranges make great snacks the Valencia contains more juice, however.
In the U.S., over 600 different products are made from oranges, including cosmetics and antifreeze.
Cook's Note: As with other citrus fruits, choose oranges that are heavy for their size. Don't be too concerned about the appearance of the outer peel of an orange. It hasn't much to do with the ripeness or flavor of the orange. Brown spots or streaks on the peel are actually "wind scars" caused by the gentle breeze that brushed the fruit against the tree branches when it was growing. And, green oranges are ripe if they come from Florida, so don't refuse an orange just because it isn't completely orange.