Basketball. Pumpkin. Monarch butterfly. Golden Gate Bridge. Autumn leaves. All of these are identified with the color orange. Orange symbolizes passion, pleasure, desire, aggression, fun, freedom and happiness. The dangerous parts of machinery are deliberately painted orange to signal a warning. Alexander the Great washed his hair with saffron (presently costing more than $5,000 a pound) to give it an orangish glow. And, of course, an orange is orange.
The origin of the word orange says as much about the path the fruit traveled as it does about the fruit itself. Most likely first cultivated in China, the fragrant and juicy specimen was brought by traders of the exotic to the early Persian emperors who collected trees from beyond their dominion’s borders. The fruit then traveled from Persia to Moorish Spain, taking on native pronunciations along the way — from chéng zi in China to narang in Persia to nairanj in Saudi Arabia to naranga in India to naranja in Spain. Once oranges arrived in France, the word took a linguistic leap and became orenge. From there, it was only a small step to orange in Great Britain.
What’s surprising is that the word orange was first used as an adjective in manuscripts dating back to the 13th-century to describe not the fruit’s color but the bitter taste of its peel. By the 16th-century the meaning had changed to refer to the color, so the fruit itself became universally called by its color, and all that bitterness was left behind. Its birthplace China still produces millions of oranges, but Brazil in now the #1 producer of this succulent fruit (called laranja in Portuguese).
So you’ve heard that carrots are good for your eyes.
Well, it’s true. Carrot’s high marks for health benefits are due to its richness in carotene, a kind of carotenoid. This pigment that makes carrots orange absorbs light in the shorter end of the visible spectrum (greens, blues and violets) and reflects longer wavelengths (reds, oranges and yellows). The colors we see. As the carotene absorbs the harmful blue and ultraviolet light that can damage our skin and eyes and even cause cancer, it converts to vitamin A, which is needed for good vision in dim light. No surprise, carotenoids are also present in papaya, pumpkin, peppers, oranges and apricots.