from the Cibao to the South, they bloom beautifully
Oranges (Citrus sinensis) are the fruit of the orange tree, an evergreen tree member of the Rutaceae family; a vast family featuring over 1,700 plant species which grow in countries of warm climate. The tree can reach a height of up to 10 meters and features a very rounded crown. It is cultivated because of its fruit, which is very juicy and aromatic, as well as a rich source of Vitamin C. It is the most important economic crop within the citrus fruit group. The stalk of the orange tree is slightly spiny, and its flowers are white in color and very fragrant. The fruit features a smooth skin and tastes sweet or bitter, depending on the variety.
Usually, a good diet of fruit is directly related with numerous health benefits. However, few fruits possess so many nutritional, vitamin and health qualities as does the orange. This fruit features an abundance in citric acid, which is the agent responsible for providing that typical acid flavor. Aside from the fruit, a series of products are extracted from this tree, which are utilized by industry. From the flowers, an essential oil called neroli is produced, which is used in the perfume industry and, when mixed with lime and lavender essences, forms part of the base notes for colognes. From the orange zest, essences are produced which are used as fragrances for the food industry.
Oranges originated millennia ago in Asia, in the eastern slopes of the Himalayas and southern China. It is believed that it was in China where they began cultivating oranges some 4,000 years ago. From there, cultivation extended to Indonesia and India. Many groups including the Moors, the Genovese and the Portuguese introduced sweet oranges to Europe around the XV century. They began growing in the Caribbean islands by the end of the XV century, when Christopher Columbus took the seeds on his second voyage to the New World. The Spaniards were responsible for introducing oranges in Florida in the year 1513. The Spanish missionaries took them to California in the 18th century.
The temperature must not be low, given the fact that it would affect the development of the crop. As such, the temperature must be between 13° and 30°C. The optimal temperature is 23°C. A temperature below 8°C causes obstruction of the plant and a temperature greater than 36°C will cause the fruit to deteriorate. Temperature intervenes in the growth and flowering rate. Regarding the precipitation, it must be between 1,200 and 1,500 mm yearly and distributed yearlong to cover the harvest needs. In those zones where drought prevails, irrigation is essential for the crop. Citrus develop well in heavily clayish soils, with good drainage and depth, thus helping the roots to expand well, and extract the necessary amounts of nutrients and water for their development. The recommended soil must feature a pH of 5.5 to 7.0, with sufficient organic matter.
There are some 300 varieties of oranges, but only 30 main varieties are produced. There are three major groups: the Navel group, named this way due to a navel-shaped ending. These are oranges characterized by their sweet flavor and for the fact that they are virtually seedless. They are very juicy, as well. The famous Washington variety pertains to this group. Another sub variety is the Round Oranges, which are eaten as well as used for juice extraction. The most widely-known type within this group is the Valencia orange, which has a very acid taste. Finally, there is the Blood Orange group, which are the ones presenting reddish pulp and juice, due to the presence of pigments that require cold temperatures to activate. To this group belongs the Sanguinetti orange, which is grown in Spain, Morocco, and Italy, among other countries.
Orange planting and production in the Dominican Republic
Our country is a great producer of oranges, which allows it to supply the local demand, for both sweet oranges as well as juice and concentrate. A reduced surplus is exported, which has been decreasing as local consumption increases. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the harvested area for sweet oranges was 21,297 hectares, distributed mainly in the eastern region, with a 44% share, central, with a 27% and the northeastern with an 18% share. Similarly, the Ministry reported that in 2012 there was a registered production of 753.6 million units. This number reflects an increase of 62% with regards production registered in 2002. Although oranges are grown nationwide, the major inland production zones are: Hato Mayor, Higüey, San Francisco de Macorís, Santiago, Puerto Plata, Bayaguana, Monte Plata, San Cristóbal and Cambita. The main grown varieties in the Dominican Republic are: Valencia, the Creole and the Pineapple oranges, which are eaten fresh and enjoyed as juice. Also produced is the Washington Navel variety, which is consumed fresh.