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Citrus Fruit

How did navel oranges get their name?

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February 05, 2009 8:58PM

A navel orange is a special type of orange which has a little surprise inside once it is peeled: a partially formed undeveloped fruit like a conjoined twin, located at the blossom end of the fruit. From the outside, the blossom end is reminiscent of a human navel, leading to the common name of "navel orange." These oranges are cultivated primarily in Brazil, California, Arizona, and Florida, and they are among the most common and popular of orange varieties. You may know the navel orange as a Washington, Riverside, or Bahia Navel Orange. If you're in a formal mood, you can call it by its scientific name, Citrus sinensis. This orange varietal is the result of a single mutation which occurred on a plantation in Brazil in 1820. The mutation led to the formation of a conjoined twin enclosed within the rind of a seedless orange, and it proved to be a hit, so people began cultivating it in other regions. The first American location of cultivation was Riverside, California, explaining the alternate name of "Riverside Orange." Because the navel orange is seedless, it can only be propagated through cuttings. Technically, every navel orange comes from the same orange tree; the Brazilian orange which generated a spontaneous mutation hundreds of years ago. Orange farmers take cuttings from their navel orange trees and grat them onto fresh stock periodically to ensure that their orchards stay healthy, and also for the purpose of expansion.