Legend has it that the demigod Hercules founded Seville, in addition to stealing an orange (“golden apple of immortality”) from the garden of the Hesperides. Whether this is true or not, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Seville is abundant with orange trees, over 40 000 that is. The real truth is that the orange was brought here from Asia by Venetian merchants, where it was thought that having an orange tree would bring happiness to its owner, hence the reason why the Muslims planted them all around Al-Ándalus.
Without the orange trees Seville wouldn’t be the same and is in fact the city with the most orange trees in the world. However, it’s at your own risk if you’re tempted to pick and try the fruit from the trees. The oranges in Seville are extremely tart and bitter, the reason being they only have enough soil to blossom and fruit, but not enough to create a good flavour. These oranges won’t end up in your glass of juice in the morning, but will be made into marmalade. You may have heard about the ‘Seville Orange Marmalade’, which almost exclusively is consumed in the UK for the English Breakfast. This tradition was started by the Duke of Wellington who was said to have travelled through Seville and marvelled by the particular aroma from the city’s oranges.
The fruits start to ripen from November to February and each year more than one million kilo of oranges are collected. In spring, March and April, the trees are filled with white blossoms and the whole city smells spectacularly as wells as giving off a romantic vibe. Everything is conserved, both the oranges and the flowers, and made into everything from oils, perfume, soap and skin care products.
Orange in Spanish is naranja and the word originally came from Sanskrit (naranga), which means orange tree. The word was then tranferred to Persian and over to Arabic. In the Middle Ages, when the orange trees were brought to Europe, the Arabic name came along with them. The word ‘naranj’ became naranjo (orange tree) and ‘naranjah’ became naranja for the fruit. It wasn’t until centuries later that the word ‘orange’ was used as the colour of the fruit. Even the name of the orange blossoms in Spanish, azahar, derives from Arabic. In Arabic it’s az-zahr which simply means flower, particularly white flower.