seville oranges

Fun Facts About Seville Oranges!

Table of Contents

Tradition and origin

Known since mythological times, the orange appears in the Garden of Hesperides with Hercules heist of the “Golden Apple” . In the Olimpia, Hercules is described receiving from Atlas the mentioned fruits. Testimony of this is the front frieze  of Zeus Temple.

Now the Golden Apples were located somewhere along the mediterranean sea.

seville oranges
Blue sky and oranges

History of Seville Oranges

Where do they come from? It’s well stablished that oranges and lemons have asian  origin. China, base of the Himalayas, tropical and subtropical regions of Asia and Polynesia. 20 million years ago.

The popular tradition claims Citrus were introduced in the Iberian Peninsula by the Muslims. But evidence shows that the Romans already had it circulating.

But it’s with Muslim domination that the orange claim it’s definitive place when it comes to ornament or decorate patios and gardens.

During and after Muslim domination, wise men from Arabia, Siria and Persia would introduce them in their plantations. Arabs were the first ones that extended the therapeutical use and extraction of perfumes by distillate flowers, leaves or fruits.

Citrus in general were only used for medicine purposes at least until medieval times.

Evolution of Seville Oranges

It wasn’t until the XVIII century , the British Navy started giving lime and lemon to it’s sailors to combat cold and scurvy, disease by lack of vitamin C.

Marmalade made with sour oranges became extremely popular in Europe thanks to important celebrities that visited our city, like the Duke of Wellington for example. The English General, during the independence war against the Napoleonic French troops, passed by the city  and tried first hand the quality of the sour orange marmalade, worthy of the best British produce, and manufactured with sour oranges planted around Seville and even the ones inside the Alcazar.

The Scottish MacAndrew trading company it’s the oldest orange export company to the north of England. Not as a business model, rather by chance. Ships taking minerals to England where used to carry few oranges, and first marmalades where prepared there. At the beginning it was a product associated to working class, until it turned into  an traditional item in the English breakfast.

seville oranges
Orange trees in a square

Origin of Marmalade

The name “marmalade” has two origins that I’m aware of; the French version claims that the use of oranges was to cure the lack of vitamin C during long sea travels or to fight the “sickness of the sea” or in French “ mar malade”.

The English version, says that the french doctor of queen Mary Tudor, to cure her frail state, prescribed her marmalade, giving birth to the “mary malade  evolving with time into marmelade.

XXI Century

Fast forward into the XX century and the Seville oranges have found a way to claim a spot in Buckingham Palace as a tradition. It all started when Spanish king Alphonse XIII (great Grandad of King Phillip VI) and his wife Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, granddaughter of Queen Victoria, tasted the Alcazar of Seville oranges and they were so delighted, that immediately sent a sample to the British Royal Family. Since then, it became a tradition.

The process is simple, after collection in the gardens of the Alcazar, the British consulate in Seville prepares a parcel for the embassy in Madrid and then direct delivery to Buckingham Palace. Like a proper diplomatic crate I presume.

Luckily for us,  Seville oranges marmalade can be found in major supermarkets. Fancy a toast with Seville orange marmalade?

But not only marmalade can be made with sour oranges. here in Seville it’s possible to find distilleries that extract different kinds of orange blossom oils for diverse use. The leaves as well. And, go figure, wine can be produced with oranges, and it tastes just as good as any other refreshing summer drink. This one is better served chilled. You can find it in a little bar in Mateos Gago street. Crowded but worth it.

Orange trees in the Jewish Quarter

Seville Oranges Today

And would you believe it! The city hall of Seville through it’s Water Works company(Emasesa) has started a new eco plan which is really smart. According to their website, in Seville, we have around 50,000 orange trees and expected recollection of 5,7 million kilos of oranges! Now, previously, the major part would go to waste. 

But now, they started this pilot project where they extract the juice to generate electricity through biogas (gas produced by the decomposition of organic matter). With 1000 kilos it can be produced the electricity consumed by 5 houses in a day.

From each orange they extract 50% juice 50% waste (skin). And for every tonne used, they obtain 500 litres of juice and 500 kg of skin. From the parts that cannot be used, are then placed in a compost plant, where it turns into manure used in the fields. 

This is a great example of circular economy, and a fantastic way of helping reduce climate change with eco friendly politics.


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