Is “Orange” a Color or a Fruit?

By: The Hale Groves Team | On: | Category: Fruit Facts Healthy Eating

With the increased availability of Navel Oranges for sale you might find yourself wondering about this oddly named fruit. After all, apples are red, pears are green, plums are purple, and oranges are…well, orange!

Why are oranges so named? You may think it’s because all oranges are actually orange whereas not all apples are red (nor are all pears green or all plums purple). The fact is that oranges (navel or otherwise) grown outside the US aren’t always orange – some stay green, and some become almost lemon-yellow.

Grove Navels, Temples, Cara Caras: Why is the Fruit Delivered by Hale Groves Always Orange?

You won’t find oranges of those colors in your Hale Groves fruit basket, however, because the oranges included in the gift fruit baskets and boxes we assemble are grown in the US (mostly Florida, some California). That’s because our more temperate climate in North America cause the chlorophyll to die off, which turns the fruit skins orange. In tropical climates where the temperatures don’t drop overnight, that doesn’t happen, and the oranges stay green (on the outside – the flesh is still orange). Here’s a fun fact…the color of the peel says nothing about the ripeness of an orange; if you are handed an orange with spots of green on its rind, it will likely taste just as sweet as one without any green at all.

So, the question has to be asked: why do we call this fruit “orange” when it isn’t always orange? The answer is simple: because the fruit wasn’t named for the color, the color was named for the fruit.

The Etymology of the Word “Orange”

The earliest recorded use of the word “orange” in English can be traced back to the 14th Century, but it goes back further than that – to Arabic, where “naaranj” came to be called “naranja” in Spanish and “pomme d’orenge” in Old French). All of these words were used to describe the fruit itself, eventually morphing into the word “orange” in English – the Anglo world for the citrus fruit.

So, how did the name of the fruit come to be used for the color as well? The word “orange” didn’t start showing up as a color name until early in the 16th Century. Linguists believe that a world to describe that particular color didn’t exist before then, and that people generally referred to the shade as “yellow-red” (which would appear as “ġeolurēad” in Old English).

Where Did Oranges Originate?

Perhaps it’s not so surprising that it took so long for a name to be given to such a distinctive color in English. The sweet orange, which is a hybrid fruit made up of a mandarin and a pomelo, actually originated in what is now southeast China, where they were cultivated for thousands of years. It wasn’t until the 1500s that they came to the Americas, but Florida is now the second-largest producer of oranges (after Brazil).

Grove Navel Oranges from Hale Groves

No matter what they’re called officially, oranges are always called delicious, and Grove Navels (which are in season now) from Hale Groves are some of the best you’ll find! Bright, sweet, and seedless, they’re an indulgent yet healthy treat with big flavor that everyone will enjoy. Order a gift box for yourself or someone else today!

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