What are the different ways to prepare and eat an orange?

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Triple spiral one-piece orange peel (photo by fdecomite - CC-BY)

An orange is not the easiest fruit to prepare and eat without making a mess, and many ways have been devised to go about it.

Bite and peel

Without a knife your options are limited. You need to remove the peel, and the easiest place to start is the stalk end. Bite off a little piece of peel, or gouge it out using a fingernail, then pull away the rest of the peel piece by piece. Separate the peeled orange into segments and eat each segment in two mouthfuls, biting it in half for the first mouthful. This is called the “bite and peel” method.

Score and peel

With a knife, you can do a neater job. Slice away a circle of peel from the north and south “poles” of a norange (i.e. from the stalk end and from

the flower end). Slice just deep enough to reach the pith at the deepest part of the slice. Now make six “score” cuts along the “lines of longitude” that join the two polar slices. With the knife, score just deeply enough to reach the pith without breaking the membrane and spilling the juice.

You will now find that the six remaining pieces of peel can easily be pulled off with your fingers or with the knife. This is a very clean way of removing the peel. Separate into segments and eat as for the “bite and peel” method.

Polar slice

Cut right through the orange along a “line of longitude”. In other words, the tip of the knife passes close to the stalk and the handle passes close to the flower end. Cut each of the halves into two, to end up with quarters. Pull the peel off each quarter, and eat in two or three bites.

Equatorial slice

This is the “gourmet” slice, because it leaves pieces with no membrane exposed, so you get the maximum juicy taste as you eat it. Cut right through the orange along its “equator”. Cut each of the halves into three or four pieces. Pick up each piece and bite the flesh away from the peel.

You can bite to three depths. The shallowest bite is really just getting juice into your mouth, and leaves the fruity fibers on the peel. A deeper bite takes all the flesh but leaves the membrane. I prefer a slightly deeper bite still, which takes everything including the membrane and leaves a clean and tidy peel.

The difference between cutting each half into three or four is quite significant, because it affects whether the pithy internal “stem” falls within or at the edge of a segment. If you cut into three, it’s in the middle of a segment and you deal with it by flexing the segment to separate the orange from the stem. You can then eat the flesh in two parts, leaving the pithy stem. If you cut into four, the pithy stem is at the edge of one of the segments and can be avoided by eating around it.

The “sucking orange”

This one is my favourite, but it needs a sharp knife with a thin blade, such as a pocket knife. Cut a hole about of about 10 millimeters (3/8 inch) diameter at the stalk end. Then put the knife in the hole at an angle and rotate it around. The aim is to cut into the membrane of every segment, to free the juice.

Put the hole to your lips and suck up the juice as you gently squeeze the orange. Keep rotating the orange so that the squeezing affects different segments. Don’t squeeze too hard or you will enlarge the hole at the top and the process will become messy.

Finally, when the orange is almost dry, tear it apart from the hole. Turn each piece of peel inside out, and eat the remaining flesh from it. For some reason I’ve never understood, this de-juiced flesh always seems surprisingly sweet.

Too much trouble?

If you don’t fancy all of this fuss, you can make marmalade instead, or make alcoholic orange juice, or join in an orange food fight.

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