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Knock, knock. Who’s there? Everyone’s favorite punchline fruit.
But far from a laughingstock, oranges are one of the world’s most widely beloved snacks, with hundreds of different types of oranges grown around the globe every year. And that’s no joke.
Orange You Glad We Made This List?
Okay, we promise that’s the last corny orange pun. (Orange you happy about that? …Sorry.)
But seriously, this list is just the tip of the orange ice berg, because there’s more than 400 different types of oranges in this world.
Still, it’s not all citrusy chaos in the family tree. There are actually several classes and varieties of oranges that can help break that big number down.
Also known as C. sinensis, this category by far represents the most popular oranges in the world. In fact, there are so many types of sweet oranges that the category can be further broken down into four classes.
The name gives it all away. These varietals represent nearly two-thirds of all global orange production and are most typically used to make orange juice.
There are many different types of common orange, but some of the most popular include:
- Valencia: Despite its European name, this varietal is a California native, developed by a frontiersman, farmer and fur trapper named William Wolfskill. (Where the heck is his biopic and how do we watch it??) It’s sweetness and juiciness makes it one of the top orange varieties grown today.
- Hart’s Tardiff Valencia: Originating in the Azores region of Portugal (still not Spain, but getting closer), this type of orange was first brought to America in the 1870s. It soon made its way to Florida, where it’s widely grown today, making it one of the most popular types of oranges, almost by default.
- Hamlin: Discovered rather than developed, this cultivar stands out for its smaller size, smoother skin and juicier flesh. The Florida-native trees are particularly cold-resistant and high-yielding, making them a popular choice for farmers everywhere.
- Jaffa: This Palestinian-bred variety is the most popular type of orange in the Middle East, thanks in no small part to its nearly-seedless and very sweet insides. Jaffas are more oval-shaped than round, with thick skin that sports a deeper shade of orange than many of their common companions.
The most common type of oranges – after, of course, common oranges – this type of orange is more frequently found for sale in the produce aisle, instead of inside the juice box.
If their anatomical name brings a certain body part to mind, it’s by design: The oranges are named for the small growths in their skin that protrude and look like belly buttons. (The growths are actually, technically, second fruits.)
Some of the most popular type of navel oranges people like to put in their regular stomachs include:
- Cara Cara: An rarity among the exotic fruit, this type of orange is grown mostly in Venezuela and South Africa. Cara Cara Navels are particularly noted for their brightness of skin, sweetness of fruit, relative lack of acidity and their pinkish-red flesh.
- California: Thick, peelable skin. Deep orange color. Rich, sweet juice. Acid-sugar balance. This orange varietal has a lot going for it – all traits that can be attributed to the dry, sunny and mild California climate from which the breed takes its name.
- Washington: Not to be outdone by its west coast competitor, the Washington (of the D.C. variety, not the state) navel orange has its own lengthy checklist of perks, including an easily-peeled skin, seedless interior and spot-on taste.
This class or oranges gets its macabre name from a natural mutation.
Blood oranges hold on to more anthocyanins – a flavonoid that works as a natural food dye, supplying red pigments to all sorts of red, blue and purple foods. (Bonus: anthocyanins is also super dense with antioxidants!)
Some blood oranges that stand out from the crowd include:
- Maltese: A heritage (read: super old) breed, this blood orange varietal got its start in Italy centuries ago, although today it’s also widely grown in Spain and – naturally – Malta. Its particularly vibrant ruby flesh makes it a top pick for adding to sorbets.
- Moro: Sporting the deepest red insides of its blood orange cousins, the Moro also boasts some of the boldest flavor of its kind, with a distinctive sweetness tinged with bitter, not unlike a raspberry.
- Toracco: Another Italy native, this blood orange variety is the most common table orange in the boot-shaped nation. That may well be thanks to its flavor, which has been described as the sweetest and tastiest of the blood oranges.
By far the type of sweet orange you’re least likely to encounter, acid-less oranges sound like a great idea—in theory. The fruit is an early-season bloomer, lending to its very low acidity levels.
But, in the strange world of exotic fruit, less acid actually translates to less flavor, making this a much milder type of orange than the rest.
Citric acid is also what helps other kinds of oranges last so long, with the medium acting as a type of natural preservative. Lacking that protection, acid-less oranges tend to spoil quickly, making it far less likely for them to get all the way to a grocery store.
Maybe they just feel that way because no one wants to eat them?
This dour-sounding class of oranges—sometimes also called sour oranges, or officially C. aurantium—is rarely consumed as a snack, thanks to the tartness of its fruit and bitterness of its skin. But that doesn’t mean humans haven’t found their uses for bitter oranges.
The same acidic juices and oils that lend so much spunk to the sour fruit can be leveraged for their pungent odors to make fine perfume additives or essential oils.
Bitter orange extracts are also commonly used for flavoring, while bitter orange fruit is a particularly good candidate for marmalade making, where its less-than-bright nature can really balance out with all that sugar.
Herbal medicine is a fan of the varietal as well, thanks to their naturally-occurring alkaloid, synephrine, which works as a natural appetite suppressant.
So even when they’re bitter, it seems, oranges are always aiming to please. (Orange you proud of them?)