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Monday, October 24, 2016


Photo by: Lord-Williams
OCat. taronje, neronge, OCat poncem, Cat naranja, L. Citrus auranium, Ar. nāranj, atranj or atruj, Per. naranguí, Fr. orange, P. laranja Eng. orange, Seville orange, bitter orange or cider. It is believed to have originated the Maya Archipelago. It is thought to have spread to India and the east coast of Africa. The Hispano-Arabs apparently introduced the orange from Persia to Spain and Portugal in the 10th C but some claim that Ziryab, who moved to Cordoba from the Middle East in the 9th century, is the inventor of “zalabia,a sweet orange pastry still made in Algeria.

The bitter orange did not appear in the rest of Europe until the beginning of the 12 C. In 1200, St. Domenic is reported to have planted the tree for the convent of St. Sabine in Rome. The Portuguese created great orange plantations in Algarve (Ar. al-garb, the west), the southern region. Most English had never heard of an orange until 1289 when a Spanish ship docked at Portsmouth bringing, among other items, seven oranges and 15 lemons for Eleanor of Castile, wife of Edward I.

During the Middle Ages the most common was the Seville orange. As they were a luxury, only the upper class could afford them. European courtiers stuck cloves into them and carried them around to drive away nervousness and depression. Although bitter, the Seville orange has a stronger flavor than the China or sweet orange (L. Citrus ayrantium), brought to Iberia by the Portuguese at the end of the the 15th C or the beginning of the 16th C. It did not become common until the 17-18 C. in Europe. 

Fish with Orange Slices
Photo by: Lord-Williams
Oranges were particularly common on the Spanish coasts during the Middle Ages, as the tree requires subtropical, temperate or warm climates for growing. It turned out to be a good investment as the tree may bear fruit for over 100 years. The “Constable Tree” taken to France in 1421 produced oranges for  473 years.

Oranges were incorporated into sweet and sour dishes, in which they were used as a souring agent like vinegar or lemon, and preserved with sugar. Avenzoar, who died in 1162, prescribed a pill including orange wood to
improve the breath and taking away disagreeable humors that are released. The orange peel is used for stomach upset. It helps to expel internal gases. This is done by boiling one ounce of peel for 15 minutes in one liter of water and left to cool. It is taken twice a day after lunch and dinner. Recently, it has been proven that orange pulp contains a combination of five adrenergic amines. These increase the metabolic rate without affecting the blood pressure or heart rate. They breakdown fat and burn calories. Eating oranges also suppresses the appetite.

Although their role in European medieval texts was relatively minor English puns on Seville oranges have been notorious for centuries. Shakespeare had his say in Much Ado II i.304, “
The count is neither sad, nor sick, nor merry, nor well : but civil, count; civil as an orange, . . .” See azahar and toronjas.

[Anón/Grewe. 1982:I:63-64:ftn 15:LXI:104-105: Apè III:239; Anón/Huici. 1966:529:287; Curye. 1985:12:ftn 1; Corominas.
Cast.1983:V:RI:559; ES: Ibarra. Sep 1, 03; ES: “Oranges.” May 12, 03; Font. Plants. 1999:312:435-436; Ibn Zuhr/García Sánchez. 1992:140; Martínez Llopis. “Prólogo” 1982:15; and Villena/Calero. 2002:23a]

See blogs titled: ansarón for Gosling with 13th C Sweet and Sour Almond and Orange Sauce published October 18, 2011 and blog titled cocimiento published March 29, 2013 for the Anón Al-Andalus recipe for Orange Paste.

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