(Leer en español) It is sure that walking through Seville you have seen something common in almost all … Sevillian orange trees. Some 40,000 orange trees spread to all corners of the city with a great ornamental value that gives identity to Seville, both visual and olfactory. The smell of azahar (orange blossoms) pervades the whole city when spring comes and the orange blossom.
Why are there so many orange trees in Seville?
The relationship begins with Greek mythology. Hercules, mythological founder of Seville and also very present in the city, was doing the twelve works commissioned by Eurystheus. After stealing Gerión cattle in Eriteia (Cádiz), for what had to break the mountain range that now is the Strait of Gibraltar, crossed back to Africa to get the inmortality golden apple, associated with orange fruit. Before facing the last mission and take the three-headed dog Cerberus of the Hell, Hercules rested in Seville with its golden apple, maybe the orange fruit.
According to historical facts, bitter orange, variety of Sevillian orange trees, was introduced in Europe by the Genoese sailors. The species came from Asia, where planting was associated with the happiness of its owner. This was the main reason for Arab extend orange groves throughout Spain, especially in the south.
However is the contemporary Seville which has made the Sevillian orange trees and the smell of orange blossom its emblem. According records count there were about 5,000 orange trees in 1970 in the city, multiplying their number by 8 in just four decades, although it has already fallen the progression of an industry created to take advantage of the variety of bitter orange.
The Sevillian orange trees in Seville streets
The visual impact of Sevillian orange trees in the city is undeniable. When spring comes and the trees blossom, its decorate the streets with the orange of the fruits, the white of its flowers and the dark green of the evergreen. In addition, the smell of orange blossoms pervades every street of Seville. Thanks to the belief in that the orange brought happiness to their owners, its presence became popular during the Middle Ages in all bourgeois gardens and patios.
Since the 12th century, that belief was extended to the most popular segments of the population, prompting the exit of these trees to the streets, and being planted throughout Seville. Of end of the twelfth century dates the construction of the Patio de los Naranjos in the Cathedral, Mosque at that time. Today is an interest point for the visitors of Seville, who enjoy the ride on a historic site impregnated with the scent of orange blossom.
purpose of Orange Trees in Seville
Besides the main ornamental value and identity of the city, bitter orange is appreciated by various industries. Until the end of the Middle Ages, the uses were based primarily on medical issues. The main asset of the tree were flowers, from which oils and healing essences were produced.
But the great aroma of azahar led the Arabs to want to make Seville a world center of perfume, like Damascus or Baghdad. Azahar remains today one of the products most used in perfumery and is part of the most widespread and sold perfumes in the world.
From there comes the exploitation of Sevillian orange trees by Sevillian people. Currently, more than one million kilos of bitter oranges are picked up by operatives of the city for 3 months, but this was not always so.
Orange trees and gastronomy in Seville
With the start of the industry around the orange, the city opened a bid for companies for the collection and exploitation of Sevillian orange trees. With the planted on the outskirts of the city fields, turned to orange on one of the products with higher economic impact in Seville. Although many recipes in the best tapas bars in Seville include bitter orange as an ingredient, you should not take a bite to the fruit…
The fruit of Sevillian orange trees is too bitter for fresh consumption. From this principle began the new forms of exploitation. The bitter orange is used for production of liqueurs such as Curaçao, Cointreau or orange wine; and it is also very handy for making confectionery like creams, pastries and chocolates. But above all, gastronomy and oranges in Seville are related with the British marmalade.
Sevillian oranges and British marmalade
The first British that had known a product that is in the pantry of Buckingham Palace today, were the Scottish crew of ships sailing south to trade with minerals. The marmalade that was prepared with bitter orange was the mainstay of an entire industry that grew to saturate the market.
Production exceeds the maximum consumption of the product today, which is mainly based on the production of marmalade for the British breakfast. They appreciate it so much and it is so widespread that it is the only jam known as marmalade. The only marmalade in England and other British countries is therefore the Seville Orange Marmalade called, made exclusively from Seville oranges and, it is said, and we have said, the favorite of the Royal Family.