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An orange is a type of fruit classified as citrus, a genus of flowering plants that also includes grapefruit, lemons, and limes. Often called a summer orange, a Valencia orange is grown primarily for its juice production. It's one of the most widely planted orange varieties in the world. The fruit takes its name from its resemblance to a Spanish variety of orange originating in Valencia, a city famous for its orange trees. Valencia oranges can be distinguished from other types of oranges by their heavy juice content, low seed count, and sweet flavor. The oranges are also climatically adaptable, which accounts for their travel and viability across many regions of the globe.
The Valencia orange ripens later than navel oranges, lengthening the growing season for orange farmers and consequently making Valencias commercially valuable. The orange matures in early February, turning a golden color, and stores well on the tree. The harvest season lasts from March through October depending on the growing region. May, June, and July mark the orange’s peak months. If the orange is not picked, regreening of the peel may occur later in the season. This return of chlorophyll to the skin does not affect the orange’s sweetness and ripeness inside, however.
Externally, the Valencia orange is a medium-sized fruit ensconced in a skin that is fairly thin, smooth, easy to peel, and of a deep orange color. An average Valencia orange contains 70 to 80 calories and is high in fiber as well as vitamin C. High-quality Valencia oranges are heavy and firm for their size. Those with faded coloring, soft spots, or wrinkled skin should not be consumed. When refrigerated, these oranges retain their sweetness and juiciness for up to six weeks. Freshly squeezed Valencia juice will also lose none of its vitamin C content when tightly sealed and chilled immediately in the refrigerator overnight.
Sweet oranges, including the Valencia, are thought to have originated in China and been distributed to the Americas by early European explorers, including Christopher Columbus. Today they are grown in subtropical regions spanning the Far East, the Mediterranean, South Africa, Australia, South America, and the Caribbean. Brazil leads world production of Valencia oranges and citrus fruit in general, followed by the U.S., where Florida produces most of the country’s crop, followed by California. The Valencia crop accounts for approximately 50 percent of orange production in Florida, where it was introduced in 1870.