How are oranges in the US or anywhere made seedless? Please explain the broad principles and not the technicalities.
Oranges and other fruits are generally not actively made seedless. Rather, seeds may fail to develop due to either lack of fertilization (pollination) or a natural tendency. The natural production of unfertilized and thus seedless fruit is called Parthenocarpy.
To quote the Scientific American article (3) mentioned by Oreotrephes:
Fruit development normally begins when one or more egg cells in the ovular compartment of the flower are fertilized by sperm nuclei from pollen. In some plants, however, fruit develops without fertilization, a phenomenon known as parthenocarpy. Parthenocarpic fruit has advantages over seeded fruit: longer shelf life and greater consumer appeal.
The most frequent reasons for lack of seed development are pollination failure, or nonfunctional eggs or sperm. In many plants, self-incompatibility genes limit successful fertilization to cross-pollination between genetically different male and female parents. This property is exploited by citrus farmers who grow seedless fruits, such as navel oranges and clementines. Because these cultivars are self-incompatible, they fail to set seed when they are planted in orchards of identical plants (clones). These plants have a high frequency of parthenocarpy, however, so they still produce fruit.
Parthenocarpic varieties may arise from a lack of pollinators. From the Wikipedia page on Parthenocarpy:
Plants moved from one area of the world to another may not always be accompanied by their pollinating partner and the lack of pollinators has spurred human cultivation of parthenocarpic varieties. Some parthenocarpic varieties have been developed as genetically modified organisms.
To preserve the seedless trait, parthenocarpic trees can be propagated by grafting. It is possible that more kinds of seedless fruits will be engineered in the future (3):
Plant biologists have learned that if the plant hormone auxin is produced early in ovule development, parthenocarpic fruit can grow on plants that do not usually exhibit this property. Thus, genetic engineering will most likely give consumers parthenocarpic fruit in many other species in the near future.
How are oranges in the US or anywhere made seedless? - Biology
In the case of naturally occurring seedless fruits such as pineapples and bananas : from which part of the flower do these fruits develop and where are the seeds found on the plant? ( e.g above or below the fruit)
Are there seedless true fruits and seedless false fruits?
Are there any artifically produced seedless fruits other than grapes and satsumas?
Neither domestic bananas nor pineapples are "naturally occurring fruits". They would die out without human help.
BANANAS are plants that are originally native to the Malesian Floral Region (Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, etc.). There are two wild ancestors of most bananas Musa acuminata (the A genome) and Musa balbisiana (B genome). Most modern cultivars (there are hundreds) are polyploids of one or the other or both these founding species. Wild bananas (2n = 22) are pollinated by bats, and are easily able to produce little round black seeds, and do not produce large fruits.
A triploid hybrid arises most commonly by what is called meiotic restitution, where a female egg as a result of faulty meiotic division is diploid, and is pollinated by a haploid pollen nucleus, the resulting nucleus and seed becomes triploid (3n=33) . This odd number of chromosomes makes subsequent meiotic division in the next generation chaotic and less successful, thus commonly making such a hybrid sterile. A wild Musa acuminata might therefore be AA in genome and a triploid of this species AAA. Many banana hybrids have formed in the past. Polyploid bananas are now of such constitution as AAB, AAAA, and ABBB.
The banana fruit is an inferor ovary (like that of a marrow). How do we get a fat juicy seedless modern banana fruit? Many plants (including wild bananas) show parthenocarpy (producing a fruit without seeds). As polyploids are also larger and more vigorous what humans have done (over thousands of years) is to select from polyploids for seedless, parthenocarpic, large, nutritious fruits and have propagated these bananas exclusively vegetatively for generations. It is a seedless 'true fruit' therefore.
PINEAPPLES are all of one species Ananas comosus. This is another ancient cultivar like the banana. Here, however, the hybrids of wild species, in the Paraguay/Panama region of South America, were artificially selected by Tupi-Guarani Indians a few thousands of years ago. The wild species exist still in the forest and are humming-bird pollinated and produce thousands of tiny seeds. By the time of Columbus the one sterile hybrid species, Ananas comosus, was found throughout much of central and south America and was entirely vegetatively grown.
What is a pineapple? The pineapple plant has an inflorescence, a flowering spike, like a common plantain, with a tuft of normal leaves on top. All of the 200 flowers around the spike develop parthenocarpically (no seeds) and their fruits (developed from the female ovary) fuse together and join up into one (syncarpic) fruit. It is not a false fruit. Pineapples take at least two years to grow. They are propagated from suckers or even from pineapple tops.
"False fruits" are fruits like strawberries, where the fleshy part is not from the ovary but is formed from the flower receptacle. Strawberries are all 'seeded' as far as I know!
Polyploid Plant Info
Extra chromosomes in people is bad. It causes genetic disorders, such Down syndrome. In plants, however, polyploidy is very common. Many types of plants, such as strawberries, have multiple copies of chromosomes. Polyploidy does create one little glitch when it comes to plant reproduction.
If two plants which crossbreed have differing numbers of chromosomes, it’s possible that the resulting offspring will have an uneven number of chromosomes. Instead of one or more pairs of the same chromosome, the offspring can end up with three, five, or seven copies of the chromosome.
Meiosis doesn’t work very well with odd numbers of the same chromosome, so these plants are often sterile.
Comparing Apples and Oranges
The phrase "comparing apples and oranges" is often invoked when a person compares two items that are thought to be so different as to make any comparison invalid. But are apples and oranges really that different? According to TimeTree.org, Malus x domestica (the apple) and Citrus sinensis (the navel orange) are separated by about 89.2 million years of evolution, but they are both fruit trees. Surely there are valid comparisons that can be made. So where are the differences, and is a comparison between them truly invalid, as the idiom says?
To make my comparisons, I will draw from my own experience and several online sources, including a dietician's analysis of the juices of the two fruits and a published study: "Comparing apples and oranges: a randomised prospective study," by James Barone, which appeared in the British Medical Journal in 2000. Here are just a few characteristics:
|GROWN ON FRUIT TREE||Yes||Yes|
|COLOR OF FRUIT||Depends on variety||Orange|
|FRUIT SKIN TEXTURE||smooth||knobby|
|VISIBLE SEEDS IN FRUIT||Yes||Depends on variety|
|MEAN CIRCUMFERENCE OF FRUIT (cm)||25.6||24.4|
|MEAN DIAMETER OF FRUIT (cm)||7.9||7.6|
|MEAN WEIGHT OF FRUIT (g)||340||357|
|CAN BE EATEN||Yes||Yes|
|FIBER IN A LARGE FRUIT (g)||4.5||2.4|
|CAN BE JUICED||Yes||Yes|
|CALORIES (per 8 oz. serving juice)||117||112|
|POTASSIUM (mg, per 8 oz. serving juice)||295||496|
|VITAMIN C (mg, per 8 oz. serving juice)||103||124|
|FOLATE (mcg, per 8 oz. serving juice)||0||74|
As we can see from this small list, it is quite easy to compare apples and oranges. And they are remarkably similar in many ways. Although they may look and feel very different, the two fruits have a similar size and weight, and their juices have a similar caloric content and levels of vitamin C. However, they differ widely in fiber content of the fruit and in the potassium and folate levels of their juices.
In an earlier study ("Apples and Oranges—A Comparison," published in the Annals of Improbable Research in 1995), Scott Sandford produced a spectrograph from dried samples of a Granny Smith apple and a Sunkist navel orange. He concluded that not only was it easy to compare the two, but the two fruits were remarkably similar. "Thus, it would appear that the comparing apples and oranges defense should no longer be considered valid. This is a somewhat startling revelation," Sanford wrote. "It can be anticipated to have a dramatic effect on the strategies used in arguments and discussions in the future." Well, he didn't get that right, but perhaps we should consider dropping the use of this idiom.
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I started eating Cara Caras this year and cant put them down. I usually eat three a day. They are awesome. I get them at Sam's Club. They are deliciously sweet and habit-forming. anon924644 January 6, 2014
Cara Cara are the best oranges I have ever eaten. anon339211 37 minutes ago
Grow your own like I did. It's easy. It can be grown in a 15 gallon pot and it will also fruit. anon318947 February 9, 2013
I also bought a Cara Cara by mistake but lucky me.
I love the taste of them and the lack of acidity.
But I would like to know if anyone knows if they have more natural sugar than regular oranges? My husband, who also loves them, is a diabetic. anon315905 January 26, 2013
I first tried these oranges (cara cara) about six months ago, and I must say they are unlike any other orange. If you have never tried one, they will change your life. It is possible to get unripe or a bad batch. However, if you happen to get that magical bag that is ripe and harvested at the correct time, they are absolutely amazing. Cara Cara oranges are unlike any other variety of orange. The taste is beyond any other orange I have had in my life. It's super sweet, yet not acidic at all. I have had a few different brands now and I have to say that some are most definitely better than others. I recommend buying a single one or two to try if possible. Although where I live, they are only sold by the bag, so it is sort of hit and miss. Still, I have to say the worst cara cara I've ever had is still on par, if not better, than the usual oranges I would buy at the market. And the best cara cara absolutely changed my life.
Seriously though, I have never had a better orange than the one I just finished. Hence me searching, reading, and posting here. The reason they are red as opposed to orange is the presence of Lycopene, which is not found in typical oranges. Lycopene is shown to fight cancer and have numerous other health benefits. anon314383 January 17, 2013
I first discovered Cara Cara oranges at Hannafords a few years back and fell in love! They are so sweet and delicious. Every winter I treat myself to a whole case of them, and I've never had a bad one. A lot of people here have said they are bitter and acidic, but I have never found that to be the case. anon313238 January 11, 2013
I first tried caras about six or seven years ago. They were awesome -- sweet, juicy. I loved them. I went back to get a bunch. Every year since, I've bought a few in season and experienced very mildly flavored to dry, almost tasteless ones.
I always buy three from any given source to sample before buying any more. I was pleased to get some pretty darned good ones today at Raley's at 99 cents per pound. anon288413 August 30, 2012
Do cara cara oranges have drug interactions similar to grapefruit? anon262676 15 hours ago
Some Cara Cara oranges aren't as good. Hard to know until you actually eat them. Most of the time they are absolutely dreamy, sweet with low acidity and don't upset my stomach at all. anon259846 April 8, 2012
To "voice of reason" - sorry, but I can't be paid enough to eat Cara Cara oranges. You can have my share of them. anon249049 yesterday
Voice of reason, here. Cara Cara oranges are supposed to be sweet and not at all acidic. That doesn't mean the ones you bought are going to be. They will be bitter if grown incorrectly or out of season. Don't spread hate for those who have yet to try these magnificent globes of deliciousness. anon248362 February 17, 2012
I just bought some today, reasonable price (.99/lb), and it looked and felt good. But when I peeled it, what I saw looked like a baby grapefruit, and tasted just like one! As I ate each slice, I kept trying to imagine how in the world this tastes anything at all like an orange!
I believe I'll be returning them tomorrow. They're not bad for a grapefruit, but I would never have guessed it's supposed be an orange, much less a kind of navel orange. I just don't get it. anon242114 January 21, 2012
My mom found these at the store and bought one for me because my name happens to be Cara. I have to say that it was one of the most delicious oranges I have ever had! I'll definitely have my mom buy more of these next time she goes to the store since they are only about one dollar per orange. anon237446 December 29, 2011
I too bought Cara Cara oranges by mistake, thinking they were regular navels. Got them last winter, 2011 at Wegmans in PA. They were the most delicious, complex tasting and juicy oranges I ever had. This season, I bought them early (November) in sacks imported from other countries, and they were dry and bitter. Today (late December) Wegmans began stocking US Cara cara for the first time, and again, they are indescribably great! anon213097 September 9, 2011
This was my first experience with cara cara oranges and I wasn't impressed. I guess I'm the odd one. I prefer the taste and texture of regular navel oranges. I returned them to the store for a refund. anon167624 April 13, 2011
Just had my first cara cara orange. I'm hooked! Incredible taste and not acidly tangy like regular oranges. I will stock up on these. Too bad they're only around for a few months. anon166743 April 10, 2011
I can't believe people say it is bitter or sour.
It is the sweetest orange I've tasted and not too acidic or sour. They just taste fantastic. I eat three or four a day now.
I buy the Sunkist ones at the Costco in Vancouver, Canada.
Right now, it just tastes perfect. I am going to buy few more bags.
Long live navel oranges. They don't have an adulterated orange taste like cara cara oranges and blood oranges. Bought blood oranges once, not knowing what they were, peeled and tasted one: spit it out and threw the rest in the garbage. Then, I was tricked into buying cara cara oranges (placed in the navel bin to fill up empty space). Peeled one. When I saw the color I threw the whole batch out in the garbage. I am now aware and make sure I get navel oranges.
An orange must taste like an orange to me. Cara cara oranges and blood oranges are anything but! anon163558 March 28, 2011
I've got to admit I don't care for these. I just got a bag at Costco and find them bland and tasteless. In fact, I'm returning them and don't intend to buy them again. anon160378 March 15, 2011
I really enjoyed the Cara Cara orange! I ate it just as fast as I would any other orange! I'm glad to know it is not a grapefruit mix because I cannot have any grapefruit due to medication. Thanks for the info on this delicious orange! anon155445 February 23, 2011
I absolutely love Cara Caras!
Keep in mind, they are navel, genetically. They are NOT a grapefruit mix. The "berry" or "cherry" flavor that is described is what some people are tasting as grapefruit. They are similar in taste, so it just depends on your personal view of grapefruit whether you enjoy the distinct Cara Cara flavor.
For those who tried one or two Cars and hated them, just remember: all fruit is not created equal! It's just like any other fruit. Have you ever gotten a bag of grapes that all tasted exactly the same? If you have, I'm jealous!
Every species, crop, tree, and even branch has variations in sugar content and maturity level when picked. If you're thinking that you got gypped out of the Cara Cara experience that others are talking about, give it another try, and try to get fruit from a local farm, but if that's not possible, try ordering online (as silly as it may sound), and keep in mind that the larger grocery store chains frequently import their fruit from other countries to get seasonals. Best bet is to find out when they are fresh and give one a shot! Enjoy
I'm going to have be a Cara Cara hater, I'm afraid. I got mine at Target and was horrified at the bitter taste, very much like a grapefruit without the sugar sprinkled on. The flesh was very pink and I just didn't taste the orange at all. It was very sour and I was not thrilled. I want my oranges to taste like oranges! anon153241 February 16, 2011
I never knew what a Cara Cara orange was until today. I picked them up at Walmart about a week ago and peeled one for my four year old son.
It had me a little concerned when I saw pink flesh like a grapefruit and an orange colored rind like an orange. I had to try one to see if it was a spoiled orange. It seemed to taste fine so I offered it to my son who really liked it. I bought them for the very reason that they were seedless and were labeled as a power orange. Lo and behold, I was surprised to find a mixture of an acidic (not as much as a grapefruit which I always have to put sugar on when I eat them) and sweet(not as much as an orange)taste. I actually thought they tasted pretty good and the important thing is my four year old liked them so I'll definitely be buying them again!
My hands smell like grapefruit after I peeled it, but no bitter after taste was left in my mouth after eating it. Are we sure this is a cross-breed of orange/grapefruit? It sure looks like it! anon150187 February 7, 2011
I've never noticed them at Trader Joe's. I've been picking them up at the Burbank Farmer's Market. They are absolutely delicious. I haven't had a bad one yet, but it's Feb 1st, so we'll see in the next month. An orange a day keeps the wrinkles away! anon150076 February 6, 2011
I like Cara Caras very much! I discovered them at Hannaford's last fall. The ones I've had have been very juice and sweet, though I didn't really taste the cherry/berry flavor some say they have. anon148860 February 2, 2011
If you can, buy them at Trader Joe's. The flesh will be darker than the skin, a little red/pink/orange mix. They should be juicy, tender, with a hint of sour to contrast the mostly sweet. anon144704 13 hours ago
do not like them. they are sour and bitter! anon141026 January 9, 2011
I am a product demonstrator at Walmart and a few days ago, I was supposed to give out samples of Clementines to customers, but our store did not have them, so my backup product was Cara Cara oranges. I'd never heard of them. The ones Walmart sells are nothing like the description of this article. They were very much like a cross between an orange and a grapefruit. I had many customers comment about that.
The fruit inside tasted and looked very much like grapefruit and not very sweet at all. But on the outside, they looked like regular navel oranges. This strange fruit prompted me to do some research and that's how I came across this article. anon127070 November 15, 2010
We buy Clementines around Xmas here in Southeast Iowa. I don't know where they are shipped from,but they are delicious. anon83149 May 9, 2010
Ended up with Cara Cara oranges because of package stating they were seedless, was buying oranges for a bunch of hungry girls to snack on between games at a softball tournament and thought this would be great so they wouldn't spit the seeds everywhere. By far the best orange I have ever eaten. anon70228 March 12, 2010
I love Cara Cara oranges, but got a bag of sunkist ones today (which I never buy sunkist, damn you wife) that just tastes like a normal navel orange. I don't like normal navel oranges, that's why I buy the Cara Caras. So if you have to buy sunkist might as well buy the less expensive navels. anon69980 March 11, 2010
I just found these at BJs Wholesale Club. I love them. Not as acidic, not as sweet, but certainly nothing at all like a grapefruit (which I despise).
I hope they carry these every week as I find I am eating two a day! Yummy! anon69051 March 5, 2010
I just had my first Cara Cara orange and thought it was wonderful. Will definitely buy them again, or at least as long as my store stocks them. One thing: I never buy my fruit by the bag. I like to smell it and feel it to make sure it's ripe enough for me. I like oranges that are heavy for their size and they don't have to look perfect sometimes the ugly fruit is the sweetest. anon68363 March 2, 2010
cara cara oranges, if they are a grapefruit cross, are going to be deadly to those on heart medications which require abstinence from all grapefruit products, ie., statins, lipitor. anon67174 February 23, 2010
I found cara cara a few years ago and buy them regularly throughout the season. I've had bad experiences when on the outskirts of the season, but mostly good obviously as I continue to buy them.
They are very juicy and sweet but not overly so. Not like a tangerine or such. I'm from Florida so I know my citrus and for those that have had bitter or dry cara Cara's I'm guessing they were not at the peak of season and plucked too early (dry) or too late (bitter).
I'm not a fan of grapefruits but growing up in Florida we plucked oranges and tangerines and grapefruits off the trees in the yard to eat and as said I'm a huge cara car fan now.-Rebecca anon66986 February 22, 2010
I'm eating my first cara cara as I type this. Bought them in Stop and Shop in the Bronx -- they just started carrying them and I'd never heard of them before. The "Power Orange" claim on the label caught my eye. Well they look like a navel orange on the outside and are reddish orange on the inside. Taste: delicious, with very little juice though but enough white matter (very nutritious) like a navel. They came in a bag of 6 for $5.00. I like them and am going back for seconds. Thomasina February 14, 2010
I had my first cara orange today. I expected be sweet and the best darn orange I've had.
Well, it wasn't. The first slice had a faint aftertaste of grapefruit--and I don't do grapefruit. The rest of the slices weren't sweet at all. So could this be an orange/grapefruit mix?
I wanted to try them because the sack said "sweeter" and I'd been curious about them. I think my bag is a distant relative of a grapefruit. anon64517 February 7, 2010
A new grocer opened up in my area and advertised Navel oranges at $1 for 7 pounds. Not being a fan of navel oranges, I bought two pounds. Upon peeling the first "navel" I saw the pinkish flesh. I thought it was a grapefruit/navel hybrid.
After a quick internet search (they had Sunkist stickers) I found that these were Cara Cara oranges. While not terribly sweet, the Caras I bought are juicy and non-acidic. I love grapefruit, but it doesn't love me.
I'm going back for a full seven pounds of Cara Caras tomorrow. It will be a dollar well spent. anon64035 February 4, 2010
weird. had my first one today and it wasn't acidic at all. Oncilla January 28, 2010
I am a great fan and lover of Cara Cara oranges. I have been eating them for about 5 years now. I had always thought they were a grapefruit crossed with an orange. I had never researched them before. I was a little surprised to find out today that they are not a cross.
I have to agree with the person who had one that was acidic. The ones I eat are all acidic. Not as sweet as other oranges either. Here in Santa Rosa Calif, they are pricey also. Eight oranges cost a bit over $12.00 today. Albeit, very large Cara Cara's.
Does anyone know if there is an actual Orange X Grapefruit. --Gary anon62503 January 27, 2010
The cara cara oranges are light and very good. i like those cara cara oranges. --denise anon60580 January 14, 2010
My husband purchased a few Cara Cara oranges yesterday while doing our weekly shopping, when he got home he offered them to me as a new yummy surprise telling me the produce manager said they were the sweetest oranges he'd find anywhere.
This afternoon I sat down to have one with a bowl of cottage cheese (expecting a sweet fruit after all) and as I began cutting the sections out I noted that the membranes were very tough, more like a grapefruit.
As I began to eat it I felt that horrible grapefruit 'pucker' that has always kept me away from too much grapefruit. The acid was very high, my mouth is still tingling and my stomach is doing that horrible grapefruit rumble I've always experienced after eating the fruit - too much acid.
I came online to get some info thinking he'd found a navel/pink grapefruit cross or some such thing, since even the flesh and those little separate little jewels citrus have, reminded me of grapefruit something I'm very familiar with due to how long I usually sit picking at my grapefruits to get them down. )
Lo and behold, on site after site I'm told they should be low-acid, sweet and even berry-like -- nothing like what I experienced at all! Are we sure there isn't a new orange/pink grapefruit mix masquerading as true Cara Caras, which I am now wondering if I'll be able to find so I can experience this low-acid, sweet berry-tasting citrus fruit?
And yes, they were navels, each has a little undeveloped fruit within. I always wondered why that was like that in navels. Learn something new every day! anon59586 January 9, 2010
I just bought a box of Cara Cara Pink Oranges at Trader Joes! Very good. marcarlo December 31, 2009
We discovered cara cara oranges at Costco this winter, and feel that we have found a treasure. Orange-flesh navels are terrific, but cara cara is a wonderful improvement on that great fruit.
True to type, every orange has an undeveloped fruit inside. Kudos to the grower that developed this fantastic product. anon58271 December 31, 2009
It's unfortunate, but LWS (a.k.a. anon57218) must have gotten a bum batch of fruit. My husband and I came across Cara Cara oranges quite by accident this past holiday season (my mother bought several, thinking they were regular navel oranges). Those oranges and the Cara Caras I've purchased since have been tender and full of juice, with a wonderful flavor. We are heartily sold on this type of orange! :) anon57218 December 21, 2009
I recently purchased an eight-pound bag of Cara cara navel oranges. The fruit is very dry. No juice at all. The membrane between the sections is so tough that I thought they might be grapefruit. I hate to throw food away but I can't eat this.
Cara cara oranges are navels produced from the same genetic code and distributed with clippings. If anything influences the color of the flesh it might be exposure to sunlight or something, but very unlikely to be genetic. It would have to be a mutation, not a recessive gene. dobrinj February 27, 2009
i am a huge fan of cara cara oranges so much so, that i buy them by the 8 pound bag when they are available in my store. i have even been known to buy two of those bags )
in any case, i have noticed on a few occasions something quite peculiar. orange-fleshed oranges in my bags of pink cara caras. they look the same on the outside, and for the most part they have similar characteristics to the pink ones, but just that they are purely orange inside.
of course it is possible that the producer (sunkist) gets them mixed up at their packaging plant, but i find this hard to believe. these are grown in such large numbers, that i cannot imagine that oranges from one crop get mixed up with another. it could happen once or twice, but i have witnessed this on numerous occasions.
i think a more likely possibility has something to do with genetics. that the orange-fleshed ones are based on a recessed gene and only occur in something like 1/64 or 1/128 times.
when i get one of those orange ones, i am not sure if i should feel like i just found a little treasure, or if i just got ripped off.
Five Quarters of the Orange: A Sense of Place in the Inland Empire
The best way is to begin with the orange. The Washington navel. Put your thumb into the bellybutton and slide. The dimpled peel, the velvet white veins soft and webby when you lift them off the fruit, and then the segments in your palm. Burst of juice, the slivers shiny as jewels.
The Inland Empire -- far-flung land of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties -- begins with the orange. Riverside, Colton, Rialto, Fontana, San Manuel, Rancho Cucamonga, Corona and Hemet and San Jacinto, all the way to Temecula, Murrieta, Pala and Pechanga. I can't name them all here -- not yet. But I want to begin these dispatches from my native land with the orange, because it's good to remember how we began here and how we can survive another hard time.
Not just in the Inland Empire, but in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, in the San Fernando Valley and the High Desert, people planted trees in their yards when they got here back in the 1880s and the 1920s and the 1950s. Tangerine and lemon and avocado, loquat and persimmon and nectarine. That was part of the promise -- a bounty of fruit in every yard, and leaning over the fence to share it with whoever had just bought the house next to you, wherever they had just come from.
When people made fun of Southern California, I always defended our forests primeval. Not Europe's wolf-haunted fairy tale woods, or the great forests of America -- Appalachia and Adirondack. We had tumbleweeds and chaparral, pine forests in the mountains, cottonwoods along the rivers, and then the surreal trees of the true desert -- Joshua trees like frightened clowns and smoke trees like ghostly exhalations.
In Marcel Pagnol's novel, "Jean de Florette," an old farmer tells his son that when they acquire the acreage he wants, they will plant a magnificent orchard of fig, plum, peach, almond -- "a thousand trees in twenty lines ten meters apart . it will be as beautiful as a church, and a peasant won't enter it without making the sign of the cross."
Our non-native woods were paradise. In spring, white blossoms like millions of stars fall in perfumed drifts. In summer, we dangled our feet in the canals where water grass waved at the bottom of the silent currents. Water cascaded from the cement irrigation pumps into the furrows between trees, like silver ribbons in the heat.
Eliza Tibbets started the first two seedling navel orange trees. A statue of her was recently unveiled in downtown Riverside, and it seems a fitting time to remind ourselves of the woman who transformed California's landscape, not just with daring but with generosity. (I still drive past the Parent Navel Orange Trees, at the corner of Arlington and Magnolia Avenues, every week.)
She was married three times, an abolitionist (her third husband, Mr. Tibbets, campaigned as a "Radical Republican" who tried integration in Virginia), a suffragist who tried to vote in 1871, a spiritualist who led séances in Riverside when she got here. But in 1873, she sent to Washington's new Bureau of Agriculture for the first two seedling trees of a new variety of seedless oranges from Bahia, Brazil, and planted them in her yard in Riverside. She kept them alive with dishwater, shared the fruit and more cuttings, and changed the economy and the very look of Southern California. (Neither she, born in Cincinnati, or the seedlings, were natives.)
By 1886, entire towns like Rialto, Bloomington, Corona and Redlands were laid out around groves of Washington navel orange trees. Packing houses for Sunkist Growers and other cooperatives were built, the Santa Fe Railroad took boxcars full of fruit all over the nation, and oranges were shipped around the world. By 1895, Riverside had the highest per capita income in America, thanks to the citrus industry.
The faces of Southern California changed with citrus, too. Chinese laborers, Italians and Mexicans and Japanese and African-American southerners, Dust Bowl refugees from Oklahoma and Texas and Colorado -- all picked and packed and trucked oranges. I grew up with their kids.
My own mother came here from Switzerland. Her father had left the Alps for Canada, which didn't work, and then Florida, which was worse. He'd seen iconic postcards of orange groves laid out like geometric treasure under snow-capped lavender mountains. He settled his family in Fontana. I grew up at the edges of a neighborhood called Highgrove, where citrus had been planted early in the century. My mother, for whom a single orange had been a Christmas gift during World War II in Switzerland, never lost her reverence for the navel. Every morning she laid segments of peeled orange beside our oatmeal. They were truly part of a golden dream.
The Inland Empire has made recent headlines not for highest per capita income, but for the fastest-growing population, for high unemployment and home foreclosures, and child hunger. But our legacy of fruit, and Eliza Tibbets, could be how we'll survive what might be called years from now The Great Recession.
We could go into the yard, where someone years ago planted a tree: Washington navel or Valencia orange, Meyer lemon with its sweet mellow flavor, seedless tangerine that falls into segments like small dimples in the palm of your hand, dark Brown Turkey or green Mission fig, golden loquat or Blenheim apricot, like the eighty-year-old tree in my own backyard. It's the earliest tree anywhere around here, the deep-hued fruit ripening the first week of June, and for twenty-three years I've delivered bags of apricots to my friends and neighbors and family. My friend Kari brings me tangerines in December, my neighbors Kim and Rafael climb to pick hundreds of long, green thin-skinned Fuerte avocados and hand them over the fence (four crops a year!), and Sherril brings lemons from across the street.
And every winter, Faye and Gurdon Merchant leave five or six brown grocery bags full of the sweetest Washington navels on my front porch. No note necessary. I met them twenty-two years ago, when their son was in my class at Riverside City College, and they have been kind to me since. Both born in Riverside Community Hospital, they went to the same junior high and high school as my daughters attended, and many of my neighbors.
Six bags - I'm always grateful, since they ship oranges all over the country. I divide the harvest into smaller portions and deliver them all over Riverside - subcontractor to the Merchants' generosity. I have friends and family who've never met the Merchants, but they look forward to those oranges -- the sweetest, most juicy navels they have ever tasted. They keep us going all winter.
In old neighborhoods like mine, this has been the way forever. But in the new gated communities and just-born suburbs, let's hope everyone plants a lemon or tangerine tree. James M. Cain's "Mildred Pierce" begins with Burt Pierce trimming and watering his avocado tree at their new tract house in Glendale. And when Walter Mosley's iconic Easy Rawlins buys a house in South Los Angeles in the 1940s, the first thing he does is plant a lemon tree in the front yard.
Mildred Pierce survives after her husband leaves with the help of her neighbor, who brings a stewed chicken. Mildred repays her with pie. Last month, I left a box on the dirt by the Merchants' gate. Tomatoes, zucchini, corn, and strawberries from my yard. The Merchants came out to visit, and we stood a few feet from a shallow cement ditch that runs along their property and toward the Santa Ana River. It's the last original private irrigation channel in the city, they told me.
The groves are nearly gone now, housing tracts named for what they've erased. Where there were hundreds of trees and one house on ten acres, there are forty houses and maybe forty trees. But there can still be oranges.
When I was a child, we sat in the groves, digging off peel with grimy thumbnails. Our parents were right. The orange was a marvel. Inside the velvet rind, the segments were a thousand shards of glisten and juice.
Send us a comment - what's growing in your yard, who do you share it with, and where are you from?
Mandarin oranges are a small, loose-skinned variety of the common orange, typically sweeter and less acidic than the larger oranges. Thought to have originated in India, they travelled across China where they picked up the name “mandarin”. They made their way to England and Euro-tripped it down to Italy, eventually making it to the Moroccan port of Tangier, where they garnered another name, “tangerine”.
Are mandarins and clementines the same thing? In short, sort of! Mandarin oranges are a smaller descendent or the common orange. Because mandarins are easily crossed with other varieties of citrus and can grow in a number of climates, many varieties of mandarins have been created…around 200! Here are the most popular varieties of mandarin oranges:
- Clementines: This sweet variety is usually seedless and easy to peel, making it great for kids. Brands like “Cuties” or “Sweeties” commonly use clementines (but…fun fact! As different varieties go in and out of season, these brands will swap which kinds of mandarins they include in the packs)
- Tangerines: Though “tangerine” was originally just another word for the fruit “mandarin”, the term “tangerine” has begun to take on another meaning. What we call tangerines in the U.S. are commonly more tart and have a deeper orange/red color than the common mandarin. Varieties of tangerine include Darby and Fairchild.
- Satsuma: This is a seedless variety originating in Japan. The tree is more tolerant to cold, so you’ll find these in colder climates. This variety has a thick but delicate skin, meaning it’s quick to peel but bruises easily, making it great for either eating locally or canning for shipment.
Any fruit or 100% fruit juice counts as part of the Fruit Group. Fruits may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut-up, pureed, or cooked. At least half of the recommended amount of fruit should come from whole fruit, rather than 100% fruit juice.
How much fruit do you need?
Why is it important to eat fruit?
How much fruit is needed daily?
The amount of fruit you need to eat depends on your age, sex, height, weight, and level of physical activity. For women, the amount can also depend on whether you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Find the right amount for you by getting your MyPlate Plan. For general recommendations by age, see the table below.
What counts as a cup of fruit?
In general, 1 cup of fruit or 100% fruit juice, or ½ cup of dried fruit can be considered as 1 cup from the Fruit Group. The table below shows specific amounts that count as 1 cup of fruit towards your daily recommended intake.
Because there is no seed for a seedless orange tree to grow from, a shoot from a mature seedless orange tree must be grafted onto an immature citrus fruit tree of another kind. The shoot from the seedless orange tree is called the scion, while the other plant is called the rootstock, as that is the other plant's only purpose, to serve as a base for the shoot to grow off of. The scion is tied or taped into the rootstock during dormant periods. Over the course of several weeks, the two plants fuse, the scion determining the fruit that will be produced by the plant.
Here are the world’s most favorite fruits — judging by production figures, at least
We’ve all heard time and time again how eating fruits and vegetables is healthy for us, and it definitely is. Hopefully, everybody here is getting their five-a-day. But that also raises an interesting question: which fruits do people prefer?
It’s practically impossible to track exactly how much of each type of fruit people consume worldwide, so we’ll use global production figures as a proxy. Presumably, farmers would be loathe to grow produce that nobody buys, so production figures should be a reliable indicator of consumption, as well.
Now, we all have our own preferences, and nowhere is that more true than when food is concerned. Don’t feel the need to change yours because of this list. But I always find it fascinating to see how individual choices compound on a global level. There are billions of people living on Earth today, and our food combined diets have, throughout history, shaped the world around us.
So let’s see what fruits we’re all munching on — statistically speaking.
The least fruit-tasting fruit out there is, actually, the one that sees the highest production levels worldwide.
Image credits Hans Braxmeier.
Tomatoes are a bit of an outlier on this list. Taxonomically speaking, they are fruits (berries, to be specific). But from a practical point of view, they’re employed as vegetables for salads, sauces, or cooked dishes.
The tomato originates from the American continents and was introduced to the rest of the world following the Columbian exchange, the single largest transfer of people, plants, and animals in history. Our earliest records suggest tomatoes were being cultivated by locals in the areas where they’re endemic (in the Andes, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, and the western stretches of Bolivia) since around 700 AD. Today, they’re virtually indispensable in multiple culinary traditions, including Mediterranean cooking.
Spanish and Portuguese explorers brought tomatoes back to Europe — and from there, the world — but what really made them a hit was that, at first, rich people died trying to eat them.
When it was first introduced to Europe tomatoes were, quite understandably, very expensive. Due to that, only well-off people could really afford to buy them — and they were probably also quite interested in doing so, both as a status symbol and due to sheer curiosity. Another thing rich people of the time used to show off their wealth and status were metal plates and cutlery, generally made out of pewter. And it was these plates that would make the tomato one of the most feared fruits in 1700’s Europe — when it was widely known as the ‘poison apple’.
You see, tomato juice is quite acidic. Pewter is an alloy that’s in large part comprised of lead, and this will leach out when exposed to a strong-enough acid. Eat enough lead and you get lead poisoning and die. People at the time didn’t understand this process, but they could observe that nobles would eat tomatoes and die sometime later. So people started to avoid eating them, which dramatically lowered their price.
This, turns out, was a huge boon for the tomato, because poor, hungry people aren’t picky. They also don’t own pewter plates, so they wouldn’t get any lead poisoning from eating them.
Another issue that plagued the tomato during its early days is that the plant and roots themselves are quite toxic, even if the fruits are not. Until people learned to avoid these parts, this toxicity further helped lower the price of tomatoes, making them a staple of the common people.
Tomatoes today are virtually everywhere, and very popular for their versatility. They’re a great source of umami flavor, and one of the few plants out there that contain it, which would further explain their popularity.
In 2019, the world produced 181 million tonnes of tomatoes, with China being the main producer.
The first undeniable fruit on the list also harbors a few secrets.
For starters, all the bananas you’ve ever eaten are, most likely, completely identical genetically. In essence, you’ve been eating the same banana over and over again. That’s because banana plants meant for commercial use are spread through saplings — they’re all clones.
They didn’t start out this way. The next time you bite into one, look for the very small seeds throughout the fruit’s pulpy core. Banana plants are spread through saplings because these seeds are very, very rarely viable. We’ve made them so. Wild bananas have large seeds in the middle of the fruit, to such an extent that eating one isn’t a pleasurable experience — it makes them borderline inedible, actually.
While the seeds of domesticated bananas are used for breeding programs, they have a low chance of germinating (growing into a plant). Furthermore, spreading the plants through samples of rhizome (a specialized type of root structure) allows farmers to reliably grow banana trees that have similar productivity, ensuring that their crops remain economically viable. This is made easier by the fact that bananas are parthenocarpic — they don’t need to be pollinated to bear fruit.
Naturally, there’s also downsides to this approach: for one, the root samples can carry diseases or pest from one plant to the new ones. Secondly, since all the plants in a crop are clones, a single pest or disease can wipe them all out. In theory, one could wipe out whole cultivars. It may sound like a pretty abstract issue, but it has actively lowered the quality of our bananas over time. Today, the Cavendish is the most common cultivar of banana. But up until the 1950’s, what you were most likely to find in a store were the Gros Michel variety. Taste-wise, these were reportedly much more enjoyable than the Cavendish. Artificial banana flavoring today tastes more like bananas than bananas themselves because they were based on the Gros Michel cultivar.
Sadly, the Panama disease virtually wiped out the Gros Michel — which, just like the Cavendish, were all clones of one another. The Cavendish cultivar was bred specifically to be more resistant to certain pests and diseases. That being said, in the wild or on small independent farms, bananas have much, much greater genetic diversity. Hopefully, this will act as an insurance policy, so we never have to give up bananas.
Another unusual aspect of the banana is how surprisingly radioactive it is. Large batches have been known, for example, to trigger sensors meant to identify smuggled nuclear material. This comes down to their high content of potassium (which is a good thing). One isotope of this element, potassium-40, is naturally radioactive. But worry not — unless you plan to eat a few million bananas in one sitting, you’re not getting radiation poisoning. And, honestly, if you reach that point, radiation won’t be your main issue.
Today, bananas are among the most cultivated plants out there, being the 4th biggest crop worldwide. In 2019, around 117 million metric tons of this yellow fruit were produced across the world, with India being the single largest grower.
Although their name implies the existence of earth-, fire-, and air- melons, so far we’ve only encountered watermelons.
Image credits Pete Linforth.
But boy oh boy are we happy we did. Watermelons are one of the most popular fruits on Earth, both in regards to quantity eaten, where it’s enjoyed, and how long it’s been enjoyed. Originally an African species, watermelons are part of the Cucurbitaceae family and closely related to the cucumber, squash, zucchini, and gourds. Biologically speaking it is, again, despite its looks, a berry.
Our earliest evidence of watermelon farming comes from around 4000 to 5000 years ago in ancient Egypt. Seeds of various cultivars have even been found buried with the Pharaos, which showcases just how popular and appreciated these fruits were even back then.
It quickly spread to any and all areas with a favorable climate. By the 7th century watermelons reached India, and by the 10th century, China. Between the 10th and 12th centuries it was also introduced to Europe, mainly by Muslim peoples from Northern Africa, and it became quite common here by the 17th century. From here, it made its way to the new world, and even Native Americans are documented to have grown watermelons in the Mississippi and Florida areas in the 17th century. Pacific island natives were also quite excited to adopt the crop as European explorers first encountered them.
Why would explorers have watermelons on them? Well, with a water content that can reach up to 92% by weight, they make excellent canteens, especially on long voyages where wooden barrels holding drinking water would routinely rot or become salty.
One especially interesting variety of watermelon is the seedless kind. While it’s tempting to assume that someone messed around with some watermelon DNA to produce them, that isn’t exactly the case. Seedless watermelons are actually produced by crossing a variety with 22 chromosomes with one that has 44 chromosomes. This results in an infertile, seedless hybrid, much like a mule.
But if you get the variety with seeds, you can practice your hand at breaking a world record. More specifically, the seed-spitting world record. You’re trying to beat Jason Schayot who, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, spit watermelon seeds a distance of 75 feet 2 inches (22.9108 meters) on August 12, 1995, at a seed-spitting festival in Georgetown, Texas. The seeds are actually edible, however, and quite nutritious, if you’d rather not spit.
In 2019, around 100.41 million metric tons of watermelon were grown worldwide, with China leading production.
The humble apple is iconic in European and Asian cultures and is one of the oldest domesticated fruits on the planet.
Image credits S. Hermann & F. Richter.
Since it’s been grown for so long and carried around by various groups of people, exactly where it originates is still a matter of some debate — but for now, the consensus is that the apple was born somewhere in central Asia. According to our best estimates, people found and first domesticated the apple around the Tian Shan mountain range between 4,000 and 10,000 years ago.
In those days, they most likely resembled crab apples in both appearance and taste. These are considerably smaller and less sweet than the apples you’re used to today, and can be quite sour and hard to bite into.
Apple trees today are mainly grown through grafting. Basically, this involves cutting the mid-upper parts of a growing tree, and attaching (grafting) an apple tree cutting on top. It’s quite like making a Frankenstein tree, and it’s not that hard to pull off if you know how to do it.
One interesting tidbit regarding the apple is that it often pops up in mythos as the ‘golden’ apple, usually for a hero to take back from some monster or another. Probably the earliest example of this (at least in Europe) is Greek mythology. But — and this is an important but — in Middle English, which was spoken as late as the 17th century, the word ‘apple’ was used to refer to any fruit (apart from berries), so ‘golden apples’ aren’t necessarily apples. That being said, other languages didn’t have this peculiarity, so the golden apples of Greek or Romanian mythos were, indeed, apples.
Everybody here knows what apples are. Sweet, crunchy, juicy. They keep doctors away. We won’t dwell too much on them. However, there is one last tidbit I’d like to discuss here. You might have heard that apple seeds are toxic — they are. Apple seeds contain amygdalin, which is broken down into hydrogen cyanide during digestion. Hydrogen cyanide is a decidedly deadly compound. But there’s no need to panic if you’ve bitten into a seed or six — an adult would need to ingest between 150 and a few thousand apple seeds (depending on how crushed or chewed they are) to have any issues. And, if you don’t chew them at all, they just pass harmlessly through you.
In 2019, global production of apples reached around 87.2 million metric tons, with China being the leading producer.
And now, in last place on this list, we have a bit of a tie!
Oranges and Grapes
Oranges — the common name for ‘sweet oranges’ — aren’t actually a naturally occurring fruit. They were developed by people, as a cross between the pomelo and the mandarin orange. Our earliest written evidence of the orange comes from around 300 BC, from Chinese literature.
Interestingly, despite its artificial origin, the sweet orange is the most cultivated fruit tree in the world, and accounts for most of the citrus production worldwide.
On the other hand, we have grapes. These are wildly-occurring fruits (berries), unlike the sweet orange. Grapes are believed to have originated in the Middle East, and we estimate they’ve been cultivated for a very long time now: between 6,000 to 8,000 years.
Needless to say, you can’t make wine without grapes. But that’s true in more ways than one — yeast, probably the first domesticated microorganism, that’s been used since time immemorial to produce alcohol, lives on the skin of grapes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, our earliest evidence of wine-making hails from around 8,000 years ago in present-day Georgia (the one in Europe, not America). They didn’t waste any time getting brewing, did they?
You can’t talk about any of the ancient European civilizations, nor ancient Egypt, without mentioning grapes and wine. The Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, and people of Cyprus grew grapes for consumption and wine-making. Ancient Egyptians also grew the purple variety. These are pigmented with anthocyans, a class of colored compounds that give red wines their incredible hues.
So, why are these fruits tied? Is it because they’re both tasty and a good base for drinks? No. Is it their bright colors? Their preference for warm climates? Not really. It’s just that, production-wise, they’re pretty much neck and neck.
In 2019, global production of oranges reached 78.7 million metric tons, while that of grapes was around 77.14 million metric tons. Brazil was the single largest producer of oranges that year, while China led the way on grapes.