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Ask a Foodie: Is White Part of Orange Peel Nutritious?

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NavelOranges (1)Q. I’ve heard that the white part of an orange peel has nutritional value. Is that true?

A. From sources I’ve checked, the white part of the orange, technically called the pericarp, has almost as much vitamin C as does the orange fruit.  The pericarp includes the white, thready material that is called the pith. The seeds are called pips.

While looking up information on this everyday fruit, I remembered my second grade teacher, Mrs. McKinney, telling us that before oranges were widely grown in the United States, they were a very special, sought-after treat at Christmas. Children looked forward to finding oranges dropped into the toes of their  Christmas stockings.

More interesting facts about oranges:

  • The fruit of the orange tree, as are all fruits in the genus Citrus, is considered a berry. That is because it contains seeds enclosed in soft, fleshy fruit, and come from a single ovary.
  • What about the seedless orange, the navel orange? This orange came about as a mutation from a single tree in an orchard at a Brazilian monastery in 1820.  It is called “navel” because on one end, where a small “twin” orange begins to grow inside the peel, the protrusion looks a bit like a belly button.
  • Because this orange was seedless, the only way to propagate it was to take cuttings from this single tree and graft them onto other trees. According to Wikipedia, all navel oranges are basically clones, having the same genetic makeup as the fruits from that original tree.

If your curiousity about this fruit is piqued, pick up a copy of John McPhee’s fascinating book, “Oranges,”  first published in 1967 but reprinted in paperback form since. McPhee, a longtime staff writer at the New Yorker and a Pulitzer Prize-winner, began writing about oranges for a magazine article. But, he found such a wealth of interesting material that it grew into a book. I’d recommend it not simply for the information, but for absorbing, entertaining reading.

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3 Responses to “Ask a Foodie: Is White Part of Orange Peel Nutritious?”

  1. John Griffin says:

    I second the recommendation of McPhee’s “Oranges.” I read it when I lived in Florida and no other book gave as much information about the citrus trees I had in my backyard then. It remains a fascinating piece of writing and a font of information.

  2. mlw says:

    thanks for the nutritional info – I like to read that, as well as the mouth-watering stuff. I had heard somewhere that the white of citrus was nutritious, too – with a lot of micro-nutrients that aid in the use of the vitamin c. There’s a name for these, which I can’t think of right now, dang it.

    • Flavenoids, I believe, is what they are. I think someone needs to make a non-sugar-laden recipe using the pith. Chutney? Orange Pith Pickles. SavorSA readers might want to give that a try. Thanks for your note!