As with many fruit trees, orange trees are native to South East Asia. The sweet orange arrived in Europe in the 15th century, when Portuguese sailors spread it throughout the Mediterranean region. Sweet oranges were rare and expensive for a long time, but became more commonplace in the 19th century, although they remained a precious Christmas present for many children in poorer families. Squeezed oranges were made into orangeade (sugar, water, juice and peel), which was not at all fizzy at that time.
Nowadays, oranges can be found in shops everywhere. They are obviously still enjoyed for their refreshing taste, but their connection to health now tends to take precedence.
In the 18th century, sailors had already noticed that a few drops of lemon or orange juice taken every day prevented scurvy, a real scourge for seafarers who were deprived of fresh food. The discovery of Vitamin C in the 1930s and advertising meant the orange gradually became the symbol of ‘healthy’ fruit, even though other fruit, such as blackcurrants, kiwi fruit and strawberries contain more Vitamin C.
Consumption of orange juice began to take off at the end of the First World War, but skyrocketed in the 1980s, to the detriment of fresh oranges. In Europe and North America, a glass of generally ready-made orange juice became such a classic breakfast favourite that nutritionists warned against drinking too much of it, as it is naturally very sweet.