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Why Jamaicans Suck Oranges

In Jamaica, oranges are not orange. Well, not that bright uniform orange colour that you see in developed countires, like the USA, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

I once overheard a group of tourists in Jamaica joking that they were going to the market to buy greens, meaning oranges, because that is usually the colour of oranges in Jamaica. Yes, oranges in Jamaica are mostly green in colour with variations from yellow to brown. And the colour is uneven too.

To an unaccustomed eye, this variation in colour may not look attractive, and perhaps that’s why producers selling oranges to the developed World have transformed them into a consistent uniform orange “product”.

Furthermore the skin of that exported orange that you buy in supermarkets in the developed countries just peels off with your fingers as the white pith under the peel is very thick. You can’t do that with a Jamaican orange as the pith is thin. If you try to tear off the skin with your fingers, you may break your fingernails, and you will certainly make a mess. If you want to peel a Jamaican orange you need a sharp knife and a great degree of skill.

More affluent Jamaicans will juice oranges into a jug, store in their fridge, and consume it just as people in developed countries do with store-bought cartons of orange juice. But ordinary Jamaicans don’t do that - they suck oranges! And to suck an orange, you have to peel it with a sharp knife to remove the bitter tasting rind.

If you are right-handed, you hold the knife in your right hand and in your left hand, you hold the orange with the spot, where the stem once attached it to the tree, at the top. Starting from there, you cut away the skin, going round and round until you get to the bottom, making sure to keep the knife within the pith.

A skillful Jamaican will peel the orange so all the skin comes off in one long piece and without cutting too deep through the pith to expose any of the flesh of the fruit. When I was a child, my friends and I would compete to see who could remove the peel in one continuous piece. The peel would then be hung up to dry out and later used in baking. And even today, when I peel an orange, I always try to get the rind off in one long piece.

When peeled like this, the green orange will look like a white orange. The orange is then cut into halves through the thickest point, not through the top where the stem was attached.

Each half is then sucked. Not elegant, but what a taste! And of course, you get all the natural goodness of the fruit fresh from the tree. Some people will even peel back the pith and eat the insides completely, being left only with what looks like a yarmulke or skullcap.

That’s how ordinary Jamaicans enjoy oranges - they do not squeeze them and drink the juice from a glass, nor do they peel them with fingers and eat the pegs or segments.

If you have never sucked an orange, you probably will not believe that Jamaican oranges taste so much better than the product available in supermarkets in developed countries. I urge you to try a Jamaican orange the Jamaican way. There is nothing like sinking your teeth into the fruit and feeling the juicy flesh and bits being chewed up in your mouth.

When Jamaicans residing abroad return home for a visit, they cannot wait to get their hands on some oranges. Now you know why.

If you are visiting and staying in a Jamaica rental like Silver Sands villas or Silver Sands cottages, get some oranges and give it a try!

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Go to Things To Do in Jamaica.