Chow Town

Oranges are sweet treat, but they have other uses too

As I was making my salad with blood oranges, Valencia oranges, grapefruit and spinach, I was thinking what to write about for Chowtown.

Then I thought, “Why not oranges? There is so much more to oranges than just peeling and eating them.”

Yes, oranges are probably the largest citrus crop in the world and are best known for their vitamin C properties. Oranges originated in Southeast Asia and are widely grown in the warmer climates throughout the world.

Primarily there are three varieties of oranges: the sweet orange, the sour orange and the mandarin orange or better known as tangerine. The United States is known to produce the sweet variety, while Spain is known to produce the sour orange.

The sweet oranges include the Blood, Jaffa, Hamlin, Navel, Pineapple and Valencia orange, while the sour variety is known as Seville and is commonly used in liquors and jams.

A large orange, about 3 inches in diameter, contains 85 calories, 2 calories from fat, 2 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of dietary fiber, 17 grams of sugars, 2 grams of protein. They also have 8 percent of your recommended daily value of vitamin A, 160 percent of vitamin C, 7 percent of calcium and 1 percent of iron.

I knew there were other uses besides eating. It seems the skin of the orange is just as valuable as the fruit inside and stretches far beyond composting.

Essential oils found in orange peels are employed as a natural insect repellent. The insects do not like the smell of citrus fruits and will avoid those who rub a fresh orange peel directly onto their skin. Blended mixtures of orange peels and water can also be poured onto ant hills to deter these pests from entering your home.

Due to the highly flammable oils found in the skin of oranges, dried orange peels serve as ideal fire kindling.

Ninety-five percent of the oil found in orange peels is comprised of limonene, a carbon-based compound used in industrial household cleaners. Limonene cuts through grease and shines the metal areas of your sink.

The presence of oxidants in the body and environment is one of the main causes of skin aging. Orange peels have high amount of vitamin C and other anti-oxidants, making it useful in maintaining health skin.

Orange-peel properties can maintain the natural balance of skin oils and tighten the skin by absorbing excess oils and removing dead skin cells. You can make a homemade orange peel face mask by grinding dried orange peels. Mix the peel powder with either milk or water in equal amounts to form a paste than can be applied as a mask for body treatment.

Peels can also keep brown sugar soft. Just place a piece of orange peel in your bag of brown sugar to help it stay soft.

It also makes a delicious oil for cooking. Place some orange peels in a bottle with olive oil and close it with a cork.

Don’t forget to wash the skin before cutting because it is not uncommon for bacteria and dirt to be lurking on the surface of an orange and can be transferred to the fruit.

Here is the recipe I used for my salad: Rinsed baby spinach leaves, arrange on a large plate; crumble feta cheese over the spinach; Blood orange, Valencia orange and grapefruit sections place over the feta cheese then almonds sprinkled on top. After I sectioned the fruit, I squeezed out the juice and used it in my dressing: 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup of the combined juices shaken in a jar. Drizzle this over the salad, sprinkle with pepper, salt and enjoy this amazing world of oranges.

Donna Cook is the owner of Rabbit Creek Gourmet Foods in Louisburg, Kan. She is also a Master Gardener, Master Food Volunteer and on the board of directors of the Home Baking Association.