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Campbell Valencia orangeUntil the end of the 15th century citron, sour orange, lemon and lime were the only citrus fruit known to Europeans. The crusades created an interest and a demand for new and exotic products. The independent states of Genoa and Venice maintained trading routes from Italy through Palestine and Arabia to India at great cost for several centuries. This increasing trade with India and the Far East and the great voyages of discovery at the end of the 15th century brought many novelties. The sweet orange was among them.

Navel orange, Citrus sinensis var. brasiliensisThe first written reference to sweet oranges dates back to 1472. A trader from Savona had sent a written bill of sale to his client mentioning 15 000 sweet oranges. From literary sources we know that sweet orange was cultivated in Sicily, Calabria and southern Spain by 1525. The varieties grown at that time were inferior to those we know today and both sweet and sour oranges were used as condiments for fish and meat.

'Midknight' Valencia orange
The Portugal orange
It is perhaps worth mentioning that the word orange always referred to the
sour orange (Citrus aurantium) from the 11th century to the end of the 18th century. It was only after the Portuguese started importing new varieties directly from China in the first half of the 17th century that a new type called Portugal orange slowly spread to other parts of southern Europe. The first modern type of sweet orange tree was imported to Portugal in 1635. By 1650 it was known also in France and Italy. The fruit was sweet and could be eaten fresh, unlike other citrus fruits known at the time. In many countries  it was called Portugal orange; in fact the name of orange is still indentical to the name of Portugal in many languages: in Greece (portokalo), in parts of Italy (portogallo) and in Albania, Romania and several countries in the near east. Elsewhere it was called sweet orange or China orange. Its scientific name became Citrus sinensis (Chinese citrus). The building of special greenhouses to protect citrus fruit from frost (orangeries) became more common around the time of the spreading of the new sweet orange.

'Sanguinelli' deep blood orange


Sweet Oranges HIstory

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