Sunday, June 24, 2007

Peeling the Big Orange

June 24

When I was a kid my mother read in one of her magazines that children should be encouraged to eat the white part of the orange peel. According to the article, this usually-discarded part of the fruit is high in calcium.

A dutiful child, for years I ate that part of the peel, scraping it from the outer rind with my teeth. When I grew up I saw no documentation for its nutritional content, so I generally avoid it now. But what I don't understand is the constant admonition of every food writer that the white part of the peel be avoided because of its "bitter" taste. I've tasted it many a time, and bitter is not a word I would use. It's very bland, and has a texture that would certainly detract from its use in cooking, but there is nothing bitter about it.

My conclusion is that everybody says it's bitter because they've been told it's bitter. If they actually tasted it, they would stop saying that. They might find any number of reasons to tell us not to use this part of the orange, but bitterness would not be among them.

I wonder if it's true that it is high in calcium. I can't help but think it is. It's white as milk, and soft as beans. It has a blandness that makes one think of high-calcium foods. It is part of an extremely nutritious fruit. I'd like to think that it is worth doing something with, if only eating as is after peeling and sectioning an orange. I wouldn't use it when candying the peel, or when grating it, but I wouldn't be afraid of it. It isn't a bit bitter, and it may actually be good for you.

1 comment:

Mary Lois said...

Since writing this, I received an informative phone call from a friend who tells me that the "bitterness" in the white of the orange peel is only detected by certain tongues. Some people taste nothing, others taste bitterness. Apparently this has to do with the receptors on the tongue.

Ever so interesting, really! It explains in a way why some people find certain foods vile to taste and others find the taste appealing. I have a good friend who will eat no seafood. Another will eat no form of cabbage. I always thought them just trying to make my life difficult by being overly picky. I wonder if they would eat the white of the orange rind...?

And this does not answer my question about the calcium content!