Incredible journeys that shape the present & future of food & beverage industry

Written by Hema Reddy / June 2nd, 2014

A Fruit for Gods and Kings

In ancient times, oranges weren’t even called oranges. The traveling king and military Alexander the Great named them apples. The two reported names were “Median Apple” and “Persian Apple”.

It was the fruit of emperors and kings. Orange groves were considered paradise Louis XIV had his own:

“His orangerie at Versailles was built in the shape of a C, twelve hundred feet around,  and was the scene of garden parties and masked balls.”

In the Italian renaissance, physicians viewed oranges as the “ultimate preventive” to the threat of a plague.

1900’s Commodity

A delicacy of the 1% for most of history, it took until the 20th century for oranges to reach the middle-class.

In the early 1900’s, people in the United States used to consume more fresh oranges than all other fresh fruits combined.

In the late 1940’s, approximately 1/4 of all Oranges grown in the world were grown in Florida. And even in those days, the majority of US consumption was from concentrate.

Marketing from Minute Maid was a major reason why orange juice became associated with vitamin C and grew in popularity, not just for it’s taste.

And orange trees in the past were not heavily sprayed with fertilizers and pesticides. In the largest region of orange groves, the ridge of central Florida, “lightning kills as many orange trees as any disease.”

As of 1987, the U.S., with Florida leading the way, was the leading orange producer in the world.

Oranges Today

While there are some supporters (and lobbyists) today for oranges and orange juice, many nutritionists view the orange as a food that contains way too much sugar to justify eating it for its’ above average vitamin C content.

Many modern superfoods including Moringa, Acai, Sencha Tea and Camu Camu, have substantially more vitamin C, less sugar, and more antioxidants than an orange. More common foods, like parsley, red pepper, and wasabi, also have a higher vitamin C content.

Financial Trader/Philosopher/Skeptic Nassim Taleb views oranges as “post-medieval candy”.

Despite the rejection of the health benefits of oranges from many, the large majority of the world’s population view oranges and orange juice as healthy. Or at the very least not unhealthy.

Today, in 2014, the worldwide citrus industry is bigger than ever before. Brazil is now the world leader in orange production. U.S. is now number 2. Recently, production from Florida has been in decline due to a disease called citrus greening.

Yet in the interesting, confusing, and controversial niche that many of us covet, the world of superfoods, oranges are ceasing to exist.

It raises the question: what superfoods exist today that will be deemed unhealthy in 20 years?

All quotations are from John McPhee’s 1967 book: Oranges


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