When are Seville oranges in season?

8 agosto, 2019

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Seville oranges are in season from the end of December through to mid-February, when the smell of these fruits floods the streets and squares with its glorious perfume. Thankfully, these bitter oranges, known as naranjas amargas in Spanish, can be enjoyed year-round as they freeze well whole, so when you see them, stock up!

On the official count, there are around 31,306 orange trees in the city of Seville, producing just over 4 million kilos of oranges. There’s no other city in the world with such a number of orange trees.

Seville oranges are generally unwaxed, which means you shouldn’t let them hang around in the fruit bowl for more than a week or they will lose their moisture content fast and become tough and uneatable. When you are going to buy them, look for the ones with plump, firm skin to make sure the oranges are in perfect conditions.

The skin of these oranges is pockmarked and the zest is pretty intense, and their pectin content (for optimum setting) is unusually high.

Origins

Oranges are thought to be native to south-east Asia, probably north-east India, southern China and Vietnam. They were introduced to the Eastern Roman Empire from India in about the 1st century, and gradually spread throughout the eastern Mediterranean and North Africa. The Indian word for orange was “naranyan”, which means “inner fragrance”, and most European languages use similar names, such as Spanish “naranja”. In English, it was originally a norange.

They were brought to Spain by the Moors in the 10th century. It is sometimes said that Hercules, also credited with being one of the founders of Seville, stole the first oranges from the Gardens of the Hesperides, where they were called Golden Apples.

Different uses

The primary reasons for growing orange trees were merely decoration and shade. The Chinese also believed that they would bring happiness and good fortune to their owners, and this tradition may have spread with the trees. In the Middle Ages, the use of oranges was mainly medicinal. Later, they started being used for perfumes, wines and flavourings, particularly sweets, and, since the 17th century (when sugar from Caribbean plantations became available in large quantities) the majority of bitter oranges were exported to England to make Seville Orange Marmalade. Also exported was the Spanish word for jam, “mermelada”.

Oranges like no others

Seville oranges are a very special kind of fruit, sour like a lemon yet warm like an orange. The Tudors were some of their greatest admirers, considering them as a way to lighten up a British winter. Cooks squeezed them over white meats such as capon or nibbled the peel as a tonic for a weak stomach.

In 1508, Lord Huntingdon paid three shillings and fourpence for “20 great oranges to send down into the country to preserve”. In actual currency, that would be nearly six quid an orange.

Bitter orange marmalade

Making Seville orange marmalade is quite easy. There are different ways to prepare it, depending on your preference, but oranges, lemon, water and sugar is all you need. The traditional Seville marmalade is always a best seller, especially during the winter season. Over the years, its popularity and demand have increased throughout the year.

Endless flavours combinations

But marmalade aside, there are many other recipes in which Seville oranges can be included. Their surprisingly savoury flavour works great over a piece of fresh white fish. Also, every yolk-based emulsion, from mayonnaise to sabayon, benefits from swapping Seville oranges for lemons, because they add sourness without that acid rasp. In Germany, Sevilles were traditionally a match for broccoli. Meat dishes can also profit from an added zing by a little Seville rind. And last, but not least, a squeeze of their juice gives sophistication to a gin and tonic cocktail.

Come and see them!

If after reading this you can’t wait to go to Seville and see the orange trees in full fruit, or in full bloom, you should know that the best time to do it is a few weeks after the harvest (late February-early March), the orange blossom season, when for about three weeks the city is full of the smell of the azahar. So start researching a luxury apartment in Seville for an escapade you won’t easily forget!

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