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CROP OF THE WEEK: VALENCIA ORANGES
• In 2010, Yuma County citrus growers harvested about 150 acres of Valencia oranges. The area had around 750 acres when production peaked during the late 1980s.
• This late season citrus variety is known for its amazingly sweet and colorful juice. The Valencia fruit is technically a type of berry. It consists of several easily separated carpels, or sections, each containing several seeds and many juice cells, covered by a leathery exocarp, or skin, containing numerous oil glands.
• Valencia oranges turn golden as they become fully ripe. But if they remain on the tree during warmer weather, the orange skin will produce chlorophyll and, in some cases, turn green again. However, the fruit is fully ripe, sweet, juicy and bright orange inside.
• Not necessarily considered a peeling orange, about 20 per cent of the total crop of Valencia oranges is sold as whole fruit; the remainder is used in preparing orange juice, extracts and preserves.
• Good-quality Valencia oranges should be firm and heavy for their size. Select thin-skinned oranges with smooth, finely-textured skin.
• Fresh Valencia juice may be squeezed and refrigerated overnight. If tightly covered and immediately chilled, no loss of flavor or vitamin C will occur.
• A class of compounds found in citrus fruit peels called polymethoxylated flavones (PMFs) have the potential to lower cholesterol more effectively than some prescription drugs and without side effects, according to a study by U.S. and Canadian researchers published in the May 2004 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
• Cultivation of the Valencia began in Orange County, Calif. It ceased by the mid-1990s due to rising property costs, which drove what remained of the Southern California orange industry into Florida, Arizona and Texas.
• Orange trees are evergreens, seldom exceeding 30 feet in height. The leaves are oval and glossy and the flowers are white and fragrant.
• Three essential oils are obtained from oranges: oil of orange, obtained from the rind of the fruit and used principally as a flavoring agent; oil of petigrain, obtained from the leaves and twigs and used in perfumes; and oil of neroli, obtained from the blossoms and used in flavorings and also used in perfumes.
Source: Kurt Nolte is an agriculture agent and Yuma County Cooperative Extension director. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 726-3904.