The expression comparing apples to oranges means examining the similarities of things that are completely different. It’s a widely held belief that one cannot compare apples to oranges, but they are both fruit, which are relatively the same size and can be compared.
Let’s first look at the obvious physical similarities. The apple and the orange are both fruits that grow on trees. They both come in many varieties, ranging in size from very small, about the diameter of a quarter, to quite large, about the size of a softball. On average, most apples and oranges are about the size of a baseball. Both fruits are edible in their fresh, natural state. They may also be used to make delicious juices and are also excellent sources of vitamin C. Either fruit will add a sweet twist to a traditional green salad. The uses in the kitchen are endless.
Of course, apples and oranges do have some obvious physical differences as well. While both fruits are covered with skin, the skins are markedly different. Just by looking, the first thing we see is the color. Oranges are, well, mostly orange. Although there are some green and yellow varieties, apples are, for the most part, red. Oranges come in many varieties as well, but again, they are orange. Upon closer investigation, we see that the skin of the apple is very thin, smooth, and shiny. Orange skin or rind as it is known, is much thicker and has a leathery quality. It has many tiny dimples, giving it a more textured feel. The sheen of the orange rind is not as shiny as that of the apple. So we see that there is a difference in aesthetics.
We must now look at the edibility factor. Generally, apple skins are eaten, and orange rinds are not, at least in the sense of just biting into an orange. Not that eating orange rind is bad for you in any way, but most people find the bitter flavor a bit unpleasant. However, orange zest, which is a thin peel or scraping from the outermost surface of the rind, is often used to add citrus flavor to many culinary dishes. Next to vanilla, orange is the most used flavoring in the U.S.
Used most often in desserts, apples and oranges both make for sweet after-dinner treats. I have seen both used for glazed toppings on several kinds of tarts. Apples are a bit sweeter and smoother than the tangy orange, but both flavors can be married quite well with a number of other fruits and berries. When it comes to pie, we all know that the apple is, without question, the king. I should mention that I once had a mandarin orange pie with a chocolate raspberry cream sauce which was absolutely astounding. That being said, I cannot deny the apple pie its rightful place as the quintessential all-American dessert. I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying as American as apple pie.
Now let’s look a bit more in depth at the nutritional similarities. First of all, apples and oranges are both fat free, cholesterol free, and sodium free. Both contain about the same amount of pectin. Pectin is fiber. Fiber is necessary to maintain a healthy digestive system and has been linked to the prevention of high cholesterol and some cancers. Similar quantities of vitamins B1, B2, and B6, vitamins A and E, as well as proteins and sugars are found in both fruits. The amounts of these nutrients only differ by mere tenths of a milligram per medium fruit. Oranges, however, do contain more vitamin C than apples. Both are about 80 to 85 percent water and have about 80 calories.
Throughout history, we can find some symbolic meanings of both fruits. Apples are thought to symbolize love, youth and health, as well as beauty and happiness. In Greek mythology, the apple is often referred to as a declaration of one’s love. Casting an apple to a love interest was used as a proposal of marriage. If they caught it, that meant yes, and if they didn’t, that meant no. In Renaissance paintings, oranges are used as a symbol of love, with many depictions of married couples holding them. Orange blossoms are traditionally worn in a bride’s hair on her wedding day. Apples and oranges are also symbols of physical health and vitality. In Scandinavian legends, Northern European gods were fed an apple every evening by Iduna, goddess of spring and youth. Traditional Feng Shui practice also employs apples and oranges to bring energies of good health and prosperity into the home.
Evidence of the cultivation of apples and oranges has been found to go as far back as 6500 B.C. At present, numerous cultivated varieties are grown worldwide. There are about 7,500 apple and 650 orange varieties, but only about 100 of each are grown for commercial use in the U.S. Of these, about 30 percent are for consumption as fresh fruit, while the rest is used for juices, sauces, jellies, and other prepared foods. Neither fruit is native to North America, but both were brought here by European settlers in the late 1400s.
On the outside, apples and oranges do appear to be very different. And perhaps, on a surface level, they cannot be compared. I would agree that they do have differences, but when looking deeper, we can find many similarities. As it has been said, don’t judge a book by its cover. Apples and oranges can, indeed, be compared.