Let’s Eat Oranges

orangesThe rail system in the United States was in largely in place by the 1910’s, but I’m still surprised sometimes about how readily (and inexpensively) fresh produce was transported across the country a hundred years ago.

Here’s part of a 1916 magazine article about oranges:

Let’s Eat Oranges

Probably the reason many of us consider the orange a luxury rather than an every-day food is because we still cherish memories of the time when the fruit was high-priced and not widely distributed, and an occasional orange was a surprise often reserved for the toe of the Christmas stocking.

Many of us are more or less slaves of our habits of thought, and in face of the fact that oranges can be purchased from December to April at almost any price, and the rest of the year at prices which are moderate when the value received is considered , we do not take advantage of their wonderful dietetic properties because we consider them too expensive.

It is generally known that the orange contains citric acid, which s a liver stimulant, and that it is a gentle laxative. But its wonderful supply of phosphates, a direct nerve-food, is usually overlooked, and the fact the oranges therefore have a most beneficial effect in cases of insomnia is practically unknown. In short, the importance of the orange as an every-day food the year round cannot be too greatly emphasized.

Good Housekeeping (March, 1916)

61 thoughts on “Let’s Eat Oranges

  1. I always had an orange in the toe of my stocking — probably because my mom (b.1918) and dad (b.1912) had grown up with oranges as a Christmas treat. And I do love oranges. The Cara Caras are available now. If anyone hasn’t had them, they’re worth looking for — one of the best citrus fruits in the world. I believe I’ll go get some more today.

    1. Thanks for sharing the link to the Cara Cara information. I’m obviously not keeping up on new varieties of oranges. This is the first that I ever heard of Cara Caras. They look delicious. I’ll have to look for them the next time I go shopping.

  2. A cure for insomnia? Who knew? Doesn’t work for me, though we eat plenty, especially at Christmas when Father Christmas leaves one for each of us, together with a handful of nuts and some chocolate coins in the toe of our stockings.

    1. I agree–who knew? It’s interesting how oranges were considered nutritious both then and now; but the focus was different. Today I think about how oranges have vitamin C and may help prevent the common cold–back then they thought they cured insomnia. 🙂

        1. I might not have this quite right, but I have vague memories of seeing an old article that was concerned about the safety of foods that were part of the nightshade family. I think this included both potatoes and tomatoes.

          1. That is true – potatoes and tomatoes are members of the deadly nightshade family. Our goats used to eat the whole plant when they got into the garden and they never dropped dead though.

  3. I can relate too. When I grew up in Northern Europe, oranges were imported from Spain or Italy, and not available often in our village grocery store.

  4. My grandmother, born in 1922 in Baltimore, used to give each one of us granddaughters an aluminum foil lined shoebox filled with oranges, apples and nuts in the shell at Christmas. She would tell of as a child she would receive an orange at Christmas time, and that when her father owned an IGA grocery store during the Depression that he would bring home the tissue squares the oranges were wrapped in for use in the outhouse; sometimes too the tissue would have gold decor and then they would be used to make Christmas ornaments.

    1. Your comment makes me realize how tight money was during the depression, and how people figured out ways to save and re-use materials that we won’t think twice about just throwing out today. Thanks for sharing the story.

  5. There were four of us siblings growing up. The oldest got bananas, the boy got apples, I got tangerines, and my youngest sister got oranges in our stockings! I’ll have to try an orange the next time I can’t sleep.

    1. Interesting how different members of your family got different kinds of fruit in their stockings. I wonder how “Santa” decided who got what. I always got a couple tangerines. My brother also got tangerines. 🙂

    1. It is nice to be able to get fresh fruits and vegetables year round–though sometimes I think that we don’t appreciate them as much now as when they were only available for a couple week a year. For example, I can remember how tasty the first strawberries of the season seemed each June. Now strawberries seem like a somewhat boring fruit that is available year-round. 🙂

  6. We eat oranges. You should count the empty mandarin boxes in my ‘starting campfires’ pile just since Christmas. Responding to another comment, we always find an orange in the toe of Santa’s stocking! Jane

    1. The little mandarins are wonderful! Based upon the number of comments that mention oranges found in Christmas stockings, it sounds like it was extremely common for “Santa” to bring oranges in days gone by. 🙂

    1. It is amazing how foods (and tastes) change across the years. They’ve changed a lot over the past hundred years; I’m even more surprised how much they have changed in my lifetime. For example, I don’t think that I’d ever even heard of sushi until I was an adult; now there are sushi restaurants everywhere- even in the smallest towns.

  7. Aren’t we lucky nowadays to have such easy access to the beautiful orange – and at affordable prices? I never considered an orange a “gentle laxative” though. 🙂

  8. I am 70 & remember that we always got an orange in our Christmas stocking. Nice to be reminded of simpler days! Thank you.

  9. My father, too, told us that oranges were a special treat at Christmas when he was growing up during the depression. I loved seeing how many of us have heard the same story from our parents.

  10. Back in the 1960’s my brother and I always got an orange and walnuts in our stocking – thanks for the memory. I think those in the UK & Europe who came through WW2 considered fruit a luxury for many years.

    1. Until I read your comment and the comments of others, I hadn’t realized what a luxury fruit was in Europe during the mid-1900s. It makes we realize how insulated my life was from happenings in the larger world.

  11. That business about the health benefits of oranges, which seems far-fetched today, makes me wonder whether today’s guidelines will seem equally silly in another hundred years!

  12. My mother thought tomatoes were at the very least unhealthy, if not poisonous. And when you visit Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, ask one of the historical interpreters if they grow tomatoes in their garden. They, true to the character of that time, will make a horrified face and tell you something like “Oh my, no. They are poison.”

    1. Wow–You make me want to visit Williamsburg so that I could ask that question. It’s absolutely incredible how people’s opinions about which foods are “good” have changed over the years.

  13. I’m another one who carries on the tradition of an orange (or clementine) in the toe of Christmas stockings. As for insomnia, I often crave a little bit of orange juice in the middle of the night, but it never occurred to me that it might be helping me go back to sleep! The liver connection is interesting, too.

    1. Interesting. . . When I read health-related articles from a hundred-years-ago they often mention that this or that helps the liver. My general sense is that liver problems (whatever that means) were a concern back then.

  14. How interesting about oranges helping insomnia. Now we drink ‘refreshing’ orange juice in the morning. Helps us to get up and go. Perhaps the ‘go’ was originally a go induced by the laxative qualities of oranges. 😉

  15. I live in California where I have two orange trees of two different varieties – it’s a rare day when I don’t have a fresh-picked orange for breakfast! (Sad truth -those imported oranges from Chile or Florida just don’t have the same tang.)

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