Recently, I made blood orange cello. I spent about an hour and a half carefully scraping every speck of pith from the fruit peels before I added them to vodka, infusing their oils into the spirit for a month. My exuberant pith-removal was done to ensure that it didn't add any flavor to my cello that I didn't want.
The pith is the spongy white substance that's between the peel and the fruit in oranges and other citrus fruits. It can be very bitter on a grapefruit, but it's often kind of bland on an orange. Still, I took no chances with my cello, which is now aging in a dark recess of my cellar.
But, when some pith is left behind on the orange that you want to pop in your mouth or use in a recipe, it usually does nothing to detract from the sweetness. Plus, it actually adds something: nutrition.
When I scraped all that pith from the peels, I removed a good amount of nutrition, but nutrition isn't what you're going for in blood orange cello. When you eat orange fruit, however, the fruit's health benefits — plus its sweet juicy flavor — usually are what you're going for. How much nutrition did I waste that day? According to Health Site, quite a bit.
Pith is rich in fiber. When it's totally removed, the fiber content of an orange is reduced by 30 percent. And pectin, a type of fiber, is only found in the pith. The benefits of pectin include relief from diarrhea and aiding in healthy cholesterol. By removing the pith, you're also robbing yourself of half of the orange's available vitamin C. There's as much of the vitamin in just the pith as you'll get from all of the flesh in an orange.
The pith is also rich in flavonoids, a type of antioxidant that boosts the immune system, is anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial. The flavonoids also help increase good cholesterol, giving the pith a double dose of cholesterol-helping goodness.
So, the question is, why do we usually remove every bit of the white pith from an orange before we eat it? It doesn't really affect the taste and it's chock full of nutrition. It may be that pith is associated with bitterness, but with an orange, that association is often misplaced. It may also be that the pith isn't as pleasing to the eye as the bright orange color of the fruit.
With all the nutrition that's packed in orange pith, I think it's time to get over that aversion.