May 30, 2014

Orange

The color orange may have been named for the fruit, but the irony is that oranges usually are not the color orange. The color orange wasn’t defined until 1542, when it was cobbled together from words that had previously been used to refer to the fruit. Its first form was the Arabic word naranj and the Persian narang, which were both derived from a Sanskrit word, naranga.

Most oranges that come from their native tropical countries are not orange. In their natural, ripe state, in the warmer countries where they are grown, the outside of the orange is full of chlorophyll, making it green. In colder areas, the chlorophyll is killed by the cold weather, and similar to the leaves on a deciduous tree, the orange color of the flesh inside emerges through the green.

It is actually the green oranges that are ripe, and those that turn orange are on their way from their peak ripeness. Many people in the United States and Europe think of green fruit as being unripe, so some orange crops are turned orange unnaturally, exposed to flash freezing or ethylene gas to eliminate the chlorophyll in the skins.