Although some believe both sweet and sour oranges may have been known to the Romans there is little evidence they were ever cultivated by them. If they were, citriculture declined and became extinct in Europe when Roman Empire fell.
In the Middle Ages, the introduction of the sour orange into the Mediterranean basin preceded that of the sweet orange, which was first cultivated in the region around 1450. This followed its spread across the Middle East from China by Arab traders and its introduction to the Ligurian coastal region by the Genoese traders.
Over the centuries of their cultivation many varieties have evolved to suit particular climatic conditions and the individual preferences of the local population. While many varieties, such as the Valencia, may best be described as “dual purpose” oranges, being equally suitable for eating out-of-hand or for processing purposes, navel oranges are characterized by their unrivalled quality as fresh fruit.
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First grown by S. Fukumoto, the seeds were carried outside of Japan for the first time in 1990. It is a Navel orange.
They appear to be of smaller size. Of similar appearance to Washington in some respects, the fruit has several outstanding features, most notably its attractive round shape and deep reddish-orange color equal to and often better than Newhall and not unlike that of Minneola. The rind is relatively thick at the navel-end which may be beneficial in reducing splitting.
Generally considered to be of equally good eating quality as Washington, it sometimes has lower acidity and juice content but has higher early-season sugar levels.
An extremely promising variety, Fukumoto will no doubt feature in evaluation programs world-wide where high quality navels are produced as it appears to be a significantly improved early maturing selection.
Originating in California in 1910, this variety was released to nurseries in 1968. It is a Navel orange.
The tree has good vigor but never attains more than small to medium size when mature. Nevertheless, it is productive and the fruit matures at least two weeks earlier than Washington, reaching acceptable minimum internal quality standards while still having inadequate color.
The fruit is smaller than Washington and slightly more oval in shape, especially at the navel-end where the navel itself is very slightly smoother, but of the same thickness as Washington, and it develops similarly good color when fully mature.
It is a Navel orange. The trees are of medium vigor and size, somewhat drooping in habit and with poor adaptability to extreme climatic conditions such as hot and dry weather at flowering.
The fruit matures early and is large, round to slightly oval in shape with a well-developed navel which is sometimes concealed but usually exposed, and occasionally protruding. The rind has a slightly pebbly texture, is moderately thick and fairly brittle but peels easily.
The segments are easily parted, the flesh firm, crisp but tender, moderately juicy and of fine, rich, sweet flavor but with adequate acidity.
It is commonly assumed, perhaps understandably considering the name that the Valencia is of Spanish origin. However, the variety first became of interest in the Azores and is almost certainly of old Portuguese origin.
No other citrus variety has a more fascinating and improbable history than that of the Valencia, which is now the world’s most important orange. Its outstanding qualities were soon recognized and the Valencia orange was to change the face of citrus production on a world scale so that today it is the leading variety in many citrus-producing countries and an important one in others. There is no other citrus variety more widely grown and on such an extensive scale.
Valencia trees are vigorous, upright, large and very prolific. Fruit size is medium to large, roundish- oblong in shape, with a well-colored, moderately thin rind of smooth, but sometimes finely pebbled, texture. Not difficult to peel when fully matured, the rind is thin and leathery and the flesh well colored, with a very high juice content of outstanding color and good flavor although sometimes slightly acidic except when fully mature. Seeds typically number two to four per fruit. It is the latest maturing of all sweet orange varieties and often hangs late into the summer of the following season without losing quality except that the rind may re-green somewhat while still on the tree. Valencia juice has excellent processing characteristics, including a deep orange color, and the fruit ships and stores exceptionally well.
Originating in 1952, South Africa, Delta is more productive than the standard Valencia, with slightly larger fruit. More importantly, it bears much of the fruit inside the tree canopy, resulting in its being less susceptible to wind blemish. The fruit is of good quality, nearly seedless, and only a small minority of fruits have one or two seeds. It has a lower sugar content and acidity than Valencia, and reaches acceptable maturity earlier.
Of unknown origin, this variety was first noticed as a slightly earlier maturing tree growing in a Valencia orchard at South Africa by A.P.Knight (midseason + Knight) about 1927 but its potential was not recognized until the 1970s.
Midknight trees are slower growing than Valencia. Its main improved characteristics are the exceptionally high juice percentage, better flavor, near seedlessness and significantly larger fruit size.
Midknight matures earlier than Valencia but holds on the tree just as late. The rind is thinner and more tightly adhering, and often oily. Midknight, like Delta, is of increasing interest, and it is being planted on an increasing scale in preference to Valencia seedless selection.
It is a Navel orange. Lane Late was discovered in 1950 as a bud sport on a Washington navel tree in Australia.
Tree characteristics of Lane Late are indistinguishable from Washington, except the rind texture is somewhat smoother. The shape of the fruit is round. The significant characteristic of Lane Late is the lower limonin content of its juice. It is appreciably later maturing and colors up much more slowly.
Its late hanging characteristics is further enhanced with plant growth regulator applications enabling harvesting to continue to mid-summer or later.
It is a Navel orange. It is a brand new variety and originated in Australia, having many features in common with Lane Late.
This variety has superior on-tree storage characteristics compared with Lane Late. This “Ultra-Late” navel appear to have an extended harvesting period beyond Lane Late. From October to November onwards acid levels drop sharply with a corresponding rise in Brix to acid ratio. At this time limonin levels in the juice are low and thereby enable it to be blended with high-acid Valencia juice, making the final freshly squeezed product much more acceptable.
The flavor is better and the fruit size is slightly smaller than Lane Late.