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Why Seville is famous for oranges

16 September 2020 08:14

Learn why Seville's oranges are so special

Learn why Seville's oranges are so special

If you're travelling to the south of Spain, there's no better place to stop and smell the oranges than Seville. The citrus trees that line the streets of Spain's fourth largest city have helped to form a special relationship between the UK and this sunny Mediterranean hotspot...

What's special about Seville's oranges?

The Seville orange (Citrus aurantium) - sometimes referred to as the “sour” or “bitter” orange - is famed for its use in the creation of marmalade. Too bitter to eat straight from the tree, these oranges must be blended with lemon juice and preserving sugar to make the tangy spread. Their high pectin content makes them perfect for this type of jam.

However, people in Seville don't eat the oranges because of their bitter taste - and marmalade is not so popular. Instead, orange marmalade has long been a breakfast staple in Britain.

Seville oranges aren't just used in marmalade. The peel is often used to make bitters, orange-flavoured liqueurs, compôtes, and speciality dishes such as the French duck à l'orange (orange duck) and Swedish pepparkakor (gingerbread).

Where does Seville's history with oranges begin?

The humble orange was once only found at the foot of the Himalayas, but spread through east Asia and across Europe over the centuries. It's estimated that the orange made its way to its now-famous home in Seville with the Moors in the 10th century, likely being cultivated in its current bitter form in the 12th century.

One of the most ancient recipes for Seville orange marmalade was found in a recipe book published in 1677 by Englishwoman Eliza Cholmondeley. The first commercial marmalade was made in Dundee, Scotland in 1797, marking the beginning of a beautiful relationship between this bittersweet jam and British breakfasts.

At the turn of the 20th century, the UK imported around 150 million kilograms of Seville oranges per year - now, it imports around 15m kg annually. But with only a six-week harvest window for these tangy fruits, demand is still high globally.

How important are oranges to Seville today?

Spain is the world's leading exporter of the orange, representing 25.5% of all exported oranges in a market worth approximately $1.3 billion in 2019. They're the most exported fruit in Spain, with three million tonnes making their way to international markets every year. Half of all oranges grown in-country are grown in the Andalusia region, with a large proportion coming from Seville.

Where can I go in Seville to find their famous oranges?

Seville's streets are full of bitter orange trees, outnumbering any other kind of tree in the area. Over 14,000 trees can be found across the city, spreading the scent of their blossoms every spring.

What else is Seville known for?

Seville is known for its architecture - blending Moorish, Gothic, Renaissance design for a medley of beautiful buildings. You can see Roman ruins and Baroque churches a-plenty. Most will visit the famous Cathedral, the third largest in the world, which has wonderful examples of both Christian and Moorish art and architecture.

It's also known for being the setting of the famous opera, Carmen, which was inspired by the popular flamenco style of dancing that has a storied history in Seville.

If you're planning on visiting Seville in the near future, make sure to check the travel corridor policies in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland for advice on safe travel and quarantine protocols once you return. The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) can also offer you travel advice to help you when you reach your holiday destination.

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