Green fruit that looks like a lime

Calamondin: Cousin of the kumquat delivers fruit all year

The scent of citrus emanating from Boni Liscano’s backyard in Atwater Village comes from a 20-foot-high calamondin tree (Citrofortunella microcarpa), sometimes called kalamansi or calamansi. The tree is covered in small, lime-shaped green fruit that has a thin rind, juicy pulp and distinctive sour flavor. It’s similar to a kumquat (to which it’s related) but has a stronger bouquet — an aroma that’s sweeter than lemon and more like orange.

Native to the Philippines, calamondin is a wild hybrid used throughout the archipelago in sauces, candies, marinades and drinks. It’s squeezed fresh over fish or rice noodles. Liscano’s wife, Dulce, said she grew up drinking calamondin juice, which also is used as a hair conditioner, a natural anti-freckle bleach or even a way get stains out of jeans.

Calamondin also is popular as a decorative shrub, adaptable to containers and indoors as well. With evergreen foliage and tiny fruit, it can be treated like a big bonsai with color.

Liscano planted his tree in 1981 after picking up a seedling at a Filipino grocery store. After about five years it began producing fruit, and it hasn’t let up since.

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Like a kumquat tree, calamondin can bear flowers and fruit in successive waves, all year. The fruit is best harvested when yellowing, tinged with green. If left on the tree too long, it turns tangerine orange and is dry and tasteless.

Gardeners wanting to sample the fruit won’t find it easily — only at farmers markets or sometimes Filipino markets. Nguyen Tran of Starry Kitchen said calamondin is his latest favorite ingredient. “It’s so smooth,” he said. “When I go to Filipino grocery stores, I don’t find it that often — in a bottle, carton or as a concentrate, rarely fresh.”

Thus the quest to grow one’s own. How? Calamondin starts easily from seed, but that may not lead to good harvests. The Liscanos’ neighbors have mature calamondin trees that don’t yield fruit. Boni has better luck with the seedling he purchased. He gives the now-grown tree regular water and in return it delivers fruit that is huge compared to that found in the Philippines.

When the tree is churning out fruit heavily, Liscano quickly fills a box to give out at his church.

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“I just give them away,” Liscano said. “It comes from the tree. That’s free. If I sell them then God will take away the tree.”

The Global Garden, a look at our multicultural city through the lens of its landscapes, appears here on Tuesdays. For an easy way to follow future installments, join our Facebook page for Gardening in the West. Email: [email protected]

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Sweet, juicy oranges make a delicious and healthy snack or addition to a meal. A whole orange contains only about 60 calories and has no fat, cholesterol or sodium, and, “oranges are well known for their vitamin C content,” said Laura Flores, a San Diego-based nutritionist.

Indeed, oranges offer many health benefits: They may boost your immune system, give you better skin, and even help improve your health heart and cholesterol levels. In addition, some evidence suggests that eating oranges may help reduce the risk of respiratory diseases, certain cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcers and kidney stones.

Orange juice is also packed with nutrients. However, the juice doesn’t contain the fiber found in the orange pith, the white substance between the peel and the flesh. It’s also easier to consume too many calories when drinking orange juice than when eating an orange, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health benefits of oranges

Most citrus fruits have a good deal of vitamin C, and oranges have high levels even compared to their tangy brethren. Vitamin C, a potent antioxidant, protects cells by scavenging and neutralizing harmful free radicals, according to a 2018 review published in the journal Advances in Analytical and Pharmaceutical Chemistry.

Free radicals are reactive atoms that can form from things such as environmental pollution, cigarette smoke and stress, and exposure to a high level of free radicals may lead to chronic conditions such as cancer and heart disease.

The vitamin C in oranges may also boost a person’s immunity to everyday viruses and infections such as the common cold, according to the same review.

Some research suggests that the vitamin C in oranges may be linked with a lower risk of certain cancers.

“The vitamin C in oranges is associated with a reduced risk of colon cancer due to preventing DNA mutations from taking place,” Flores said. Studies have shown that about 10 to 15 percent of colon cancers have a mutation in a gene called BRAF.

In addition, a 2013 study published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer found that the high amounts of vitamin C and folic acid, coupled with the antioxidant properties, in orange juice can reduce DNA damage and, therefore, the risk of cancer.

In addition to vitamin C, oranges contain fiber, potassium and choline, all of which are good for your heart. Potassium, an electrolyte mineral, is vital for the healthy functioning of the nervous system, and a lack of potassium can lead to arrhythmia (an irregular heartbeat), increased blood pressure and a depletion of calcium in bones, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

“The potassium found in oranges helps to lower blood pressure, protecting against stroke,” Flores said. Too much potassium, however, can lead to hyperkalemia which can be serious and life threatening and include symptoms of muscle fatigue and weakness, nausea and paralysis, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Flores also noted that oranges are high in folate, a B vitamin that helps the body lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that is common in red meat and is linked with poor heart health.

The fiber in oranges may help lower blood sugar levels in people with type 1 diabetes and improve blood sugar, lipids and insulin levels in people with type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association lists oranges, along with other citrus fruits, as a “superfood” for people with diabetes.

Fiber also aids in digestion and may help lower cholesterol by blocking the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Health risks

Oranges are great for you, but you should enjoy them in moderation, Flores said. “Eating too many oranges has some uncomfortable side effects,” she said. “When eaten in excess, the greater fiber content can affect digestion, causing abdominal cramps, and could also lead to diarrhea.”

Though oranges are relatively low in calories, eating several per day can end up leading to weight gain. It is also possible to consume too much vitamin C (more than 2,000 milligrams a day); an excess of this nutrient may lead to diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, bloating or cramps, headaches and insomnia, according to the Mayo Clinic.

“Because they are a high-acid food, can contribute to heartburn, especially for those who already suffer regularly,” Flores said. People with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD, also called acid reflux disease) may experience heartburn or regurgitation if they eat too many oranges.

People who are taking beta-blockers (a type of medication used to treat high blood pressure) should be careful not to consume too many fruits that are high in potassium, such as oranges and bananas, according to the American Heart Association. These medicines increase potassium levels and, if mixed with large amounts of potassium-rich foods, can lead to an excess of potassium in the body. This is a significant concern for people whose kidneys are not fully functional, as the additional potassium will not be effectively removed from the body.

Orange peels: eat ’em or leave ’em??

Orange peels are not poisonous, and as many cooks know, orange zest can pack a big flavor punch. But although orange peels are edible, they are not nearly as sweet or as juicy as the pulp. They can also be difficult to digest, and unless you’re eating a peel from an organic orange, it could be covered in chemicals.

If you do eat the peel, you’ll get a good amount of nutrients. “Orange peel actually has more fiber than the fruit inside,” Flores said. “It also has flavonoids in it that contain nutritious benefits.”

Flavonoids — compounds found in many foods, such as fruits and vegetables, grains, tea and wine — are known to lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation, according to a 2016 article published in the Journal of Nutritional Science.

Additionally, orange peels contain calcium, several B vitamins, and vitamins A and C. You can get the same nutrients by eating the inner part of the peel and leaving the tough outer part.

“The pith of the orange — the white part between the skin and fruit — can be sour or bitter but actually contains just as much vitamin C as the fruit itself, with a good deal of fiber,” Flores said.

Orange facts

  • Oranges originated around 4000 B.C. in Southeast Asia and then spread to India.
  • Oranges are a hybrid of the pomelo, or “Chinese grapefruit” (which is pale green or yellow), and the tangerine.
  • The orange tree is a small tropical to semitropical, evergreen, flowering plant. It grows up to 16 to 26 feet (5 to 8 meters).
  • Oranges are classified into two general categories: sweet and bitter. The sweet varieties are the most commonly consumed. Popular varieties of the sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) include Valencia, navel and Jaffa oranges. Bitter oranges (Citrus aurantium) are often used to make jam or marmalade, and their zest is used as the flavoring for liqueurs such as Grand Marnier and Cointreau.
  • Renaissance paintings that display oranges on the table during “The Last Supper” are wrong. Oranges were not cultivated in the Middle East until sometime around the ninth century.
  • Commercial oranges are often bright orange because an artificial dye, Citrus Red Number 2, is injected into their skins at a concentration of 2 parts per million.
  • In 2017, the top five orange-producing countries, by millions of tons produced, were Brazil (35.6), the United States (15.7), China (14.4), India (10.8) and Mexico (8.1).
  • About 85 percent of all oranges produced are used for juice.
  • There are over 600 varieties of oranges worldwide.

(Sources: Top Food Facts, Science Kids & Florida Citrus Commission)

Additional resources:

  • Learn more about oranges and other healthy foods at The World’s Healthiest Foods.
  • Browse the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Nutrient Database to find the nutrient content of thousands of foods.
  • More helpful resources on oranges from the USDA.

This article was updated on March 12, 2019, by Live Science contributor Rachel Ross.

Too Much Citrus Can Cause Melanoma But You Should Not Worry: Here’s Why

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People who drink a glass of fresh orange juice every morning may want to choose another beverage as a new study suggests that consuming citrus fruits and drinks can potentially increase the risk of developing melanoma.

In a study featured in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, dermatologist Dr. Abrar Qureshi of Brown University and his team of researchers studied the records of more than 100,000 adult Americans participating in the 25-year Nurses’ Health Study.

They discovered that out of the total number of participants, less than two percent of them developed melanoma during the course of 25 years.

While this result shows a low risk for the skin condition overall, it is still 36 percent higher especially among people who drank or ate at least six-ounce servings of citrus juice or fruit almost twice a day compared to those who only consumed them less than two times a week.

The researchers noted that people who ate the most grapefruit or drank the most orange juice showed a high risk for melanoma, but this was not seen on those who drank grapefruit juice or ate whole oranges. This was despite the fact that grapefruits contain more furocoumarins and psoralens compared to grapefruit juice.

As for the link to orange juice consumption, the researchers believe this could simply be because many people prefer to drink orange juice.

The team also tested other fruits, vegetables and juices to determine their risk factor for melanoma, but no positive association with the skin condition was found in other products.

Dr. Walter Willett, a researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health and co-author of the study, said that additional research is needed in order to explore their findings further.

He explained that foods that are considered natural are not always entirely beneficial to people as these products may still contain highly toxic substances.

Willett said that eating a varied diet would be more suitable for people, wherein they do not consume too little or too much of one type of food.

“Variety is a good thing to have because it means that you are not likely to miss out on something important and it also means you not likely to miss out on something that is good for you,” Willet said.

Health Benefits of Juicing

Despite this new finding, health experts still urge people to consume a healthy amount of fruits every day even through juicing.

Mayo Clinic nutritionist Katherine Zeratsky said that juices labeled as “100 percent” can be healthy option as they are made from the pure extract of natural fruits and vegetables. These beverages have no additives and no preservatives, and their vitamin and mineral content are higher compared to sweetened juices or juice cocktails.

For optimal health, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends consuming a minimum of one and a half cup to two cups of fruit each day for women and two cups of fruit for men. A single cup of fruit juice can be considered as one serving of fruit.

Juices can also be good source of the recommended dietary allowance for vitamin C, which is 90 milligrams for men and 75 milligrams for women each day. Drinking three-quarters of a cup of orange juice daily can provide individuals with 93 milligrams of vitamin C, while consuming the same amount of grapefruit offers 70 milligrams.

Photo: Mike Mozart | Flickr

Are you eating too many citrus fruits?

Frequent consumption of citrus fruits — whole grapefruit and orange juice — may be associated with an increased risk of melanoma, a type of skin cancer, says a large study.

Analysing dietary patterns among more than 100,000 people in the US, the researchers found that melanoma risk was 36 percent higher in people who consumed citrus fruit or juice at least 1.6 times daily compared to those who consumed them less than twice per week.

Consumption of grapefruit and oranges was not associated with an increased risk for any other non-skin cancers.

“While our findings suggest that people who consume large amounts of whole grapefruit or orange juice may be at increased risk for melanoma, we need much more research before any concrete recommendations can be made,” said lead study author Shaowei Wu, postdoctoral research fellow at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

“At this time, we do not advise that people cut back on citrus — but those who consume a lot of grapefruit and/or orange juice should be particularly careful to avoid prolonged sun exposure,” Wu noted.

The apparent link between melanoma and citrus fruit consumption may be due to high levels of substances called furocoumarins found in citrus fruits, the researchers pointed out.

Prior research showed that furocoumarins make the skin more sensitive to sunlight, including to melanoma-causing ultraviolet (UV) rays.

The new study involved over 100,000 men and women in the US. Over a follow-up period of up to 26 years, 1,840 study participants were diagnosed with melanoma.

Higher overall citrus fruit consumption (the total number of servings of whole grapefruit, whole oranges, and juices from those fruits) was associated with increased risk of malignant melanoma in both men and women.

The association was strongest for grapefruit, followed by orange juice.

The study was published online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

With IANS inputs

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