The Marvel Of Navel Oranges

Phillip and Katy Zeidner grow exotic fruit on 12.6 acres in Kalaheo. The couple acquired the farm this past November. They use organic growing techniques and are working toward organic certification, and plan to add a vegetable garden.

What’s growing now: apple bananas, avocados, grapefruit (ruby), lemons (Meyer), limes (Tahitian), lychee, mangos (Haden), and oranges (navel).


The orange is unknown in the wild state and is assumed to have originated in southern China, northeastern India and perhaps Southeast Asia. It may have been carried to the Mediterranean area by Italian traders after 1450, or by Portuguese navigators around 1500. The French brought it to Louisiana, and from New Orleans seeds went to Florida in 1872.

In 1792, a surgeon and naturalist on the ship HMS Discovery – part of Capt. James Cook’s third expedition to the Hawaiian Islands – presented seedlings to tribal chiefs. The orange became commonly grown throughout Hawaii but was virtually abandoned after the arrival of the Mediterranean fruit fly.

The navel of a navel orange is a small, secondary fruit that grows in the blossom end of the primary fruit. Navel oranges are large with a thick, easily removable rind. Juicy segments separate easily, are of excellent flavor and seedless or nearly so. Cara Cara is a new navel variety with bright-pink flesh and a sweet, spicy flavor.

Season: On average, navel trees will bear about 100 fruit per season. On Kaua’i, they are available in the late fall through early spring.

What to look for: Choose oranges that are firm but not hard, with a relatively smooth skin. Avoid oranges that are soft or have dark, watery areas. Fruit that is heavy for its size will be juiciest, but size in itself does not indicate quality, as larger fruit is often thick-skinned. The skin of navel oranges grown in Hawaii range from green, to reddish and orange. Superficial blemishes known as russeting have no effect on flavor and may indicate a thinner skin and superior juiciness.

Storage: Oranges stored at cool, room temperature will keep for at least a week. They will keep much longer in the refrigerator with good air circulation. Check them often, as one moldy orange will quickly spoil them all.

Tip: For recipes that call for zest, remove only the thin, oily pigmented, outer layer of the skin. Use a zester or grater to avoid the bitter, white layer below called the pith. Smooth, thin-skinned oranges are best for zest.

Preparation: Oranges are commonly peeled, segmented and eaten fresh or used in juice, fruit cups and salads. Juice is used to make a rich curd, ice cream, sorbet, cakes and compotes. Squeezed daily in the kitchen, the juice is excellent in salad dressings, over fresh fruit, in orange butter and in fruit cocktails. To juice one orange, simply cut it in half and twist the orange flesh around the tines of a fork into a strainer set over a bowl.

Moroccans make a zesty salad with orange segments, olives and onions. Dried orange peel pairs well in Mediterranean fish soups such as bouillabaisse, as well as beef stew and roasted duck.

Health benefits: One orange supplies 116 percent of the daily value for vitamin C, which is the primary water-soluble antioxidant in the body that disarms free radicals and prevents cell damage. A result of free radical damage to DNA is cancer. Vitamin C, which is also vital for the proper function of a healthy immune system, is good for preventing colds and may be helpful in preventing recurrent ear infections.

The World Health Organization’s recent draft report, “Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Disease,” concludes that a diet high in citrus offers protection against cardiovascular disease thanks to folate, which is necessary for lowering levels of cardiovascular risk factor; potassium, which helps lower blood pressure and protects against stroke and cardiac arrhythmias; and carotenoids and flavonoids, which have protective cardiovascular effects.

Ai Farm Produce can be found at: Restaurant: The Feral Pig, Merriman’s Fish House, Tortilla Republic Grill & Margarita Bar, Josselin’s Tapas Bar & Grill.

For more information, call 223-6942 or email


Alan Van Zee, owner of Hawaiian Island Juice, sometimes serves this warm tea at the Saturday Kaua’i Community Market in Puhi. The spicy tea is a perfect foil for chilly winter mornings. He says a blend of orange, tangelo and tan-

Orange Spice Tea | Daniel Lane photos

gerine juice works well. For those who like a caffeine kick, substitute black tea for green. Makes four servings.

* 4 cups fresh-squeezed Kaua’i orange juice
* 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
* 8 whole cloves
* 1 2-inch section Kaua’i ginger root, peeled and quartered
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
* 3 green tea bags, or 3 tablespoons loose tea
* 1/4 cup Kaua’i honey

Pour the orange juice along with 2 cups of water into a 2-quart saucepan. Add cinnamon stick, cloves and ginger. Heat over medium heat until it just reaches the boiling point, reduce to a simmer for at least 30 minutes. Turn heat to low and add ground cinnamon and ground cloves. Stir well and allow the flavors to blend another 15 minutes.

Add green tea and steep for 10 or 15 minutes. Strain and add honey. Serve hot or keep in an insulated, hot liquid container. Leftover can be refrigerated and served as iced tea.

Marta Lane is a Kaua’i-based food writer. For more information, visit