Oranges offer a lot of nutrition in colorful package

The seedless California navel orange contains a whole day’s worth of vitamin C. Oranges are also a good source of potassium and moderate sources of vitamin A.
The seedless California navel orange contains a whole day’s worth of vitamin C. Oranges are also a good source of potassium and moderate sources of vitamin A. RENEE ITTNER-MCMANUS

Nutrition: One medium orange contains about 60 calories – and 120 percent of the adult daily dose of vitamin C. This citrus also is high in fiber, calcium and vitamin A. It’s a good source of thiamin, folate and potassium.

Oranges really are good for you, especially during cold and flu season. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps the body resist infectious disease. Oranges also contain hesperetin, naringenin, beta-carotene and lutein; these antioxidants act as anti-inflammatories and boost the immune system. Oranges’ dietary fiber helps colon health.

Selection: Oranges do not ripen off the tree; they must reach maturity and full ripeness before harvest. Look for firm, unblemished fruit with good orange color and finely textured, smooth skin. A juicy orange should feel heavy for its size. Avoid fruit with soft spots, dull or faded coloring or wrinkled, saggy skin.

Storage: Keep fresh oranges unpeeled in the refrigerator. They’ll keep for several weeks. Rinse with cool water and pat dry before peeling. When cut, store in a sealed nonmetallic container or zip-locked bag in the refrigerator.

Preparation: Peel and eat; what more do you need? Actually, oranges can be used many ways, but consumption usually starts sans peel. For an easy-peeling orange, roll the fruit under your palm on a hard surface. This loosens the skin, so the peel will come right off.

Canning: Peel and separate oranges into sections. Remove the white pith and any membrane. Pack the sections into sterilized jars and cover the fruit with light syrup (made with equal parts sugar and water, brought to a boil). Allow a half-inch of head space at the top of the jar. Seal and process in a boiling hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Juice it: Valencia oranges, the world’s most popular orange, have twice as much juice as navel oranges, the king of California citrus. That’s an important note to remember since making fresh juice takes a lot of oranges. Depending on the size of the fruit and variety, each orange yields 2 to 4 ounces of juice. One cup (8 ounces) of juice has 100 calories and 150 milligrams of vitamin C.

Use orange juice instead of vinegar in marinades and salad dressings; the juice’s acidity naturally tenderizes meat, fish or poultry. (And it smells better than vinegar, too.)

Freezing: Orange sections can be frozen in their own juice. Separate the segments, then cover with fresh juice in a freezer container, allowing a half-inch head space. Frozen segments should keep their quality for six months.

Juice also can be frozen for up to six months. Freeze the zest, too. Grate the peel and spread onto a cookie sheet. Freeze, then transfer to a plastic bag.

But don’t try freezing whole fruit; it will expand and burst, making a big mess in the freezer.

Pick your own: If you have an orange tree in your backyard, the best place to “store” oranges is on the tree. They’ll keep for months even after they reach full orange color. Pick when ready to use. To test for ripeness before picking, give the fruit a gentle squeeze. If it feels rock-hard and solid, it needs more time. If it has a little give, it’s juicy and ripe.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee