Do you remember that time your mother or father gave you a fresh orange juice to try for the first time? That flavor that is not bitter but not sweet either, that quenches your thirst as well as water does, and that also feeds you by providing your body with much-needed vitamin C to keep your immune system healthy.
But, have you ever wondered what the origin of the orange is, and who were the first to grow them? Well, here you will get the answers to these and other questions related to the evolution of one of the best-selling edible fruits in the world.
- 1 It all started… in China
- 2 How did the orange arrive in Spain?
- 3 Orange crop crisis
- 4 Curiosities of the orange tree
It all started… in China
It all started, it is believed, in China, where the citron has been cultivated for thousands of years, which is the first citrus fruit known to Europeans. Thanks to the Silk Road, which was a network of trade routes organized from the 1st century BC. Connecting China with Mongolia, the Indian subcontinent, Persia, Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Europe, and Africa, the sour began to spread throughout the Orient. In 1178 BC C., Han Yen-chih, wrote a very complete work on the 27 different varieties of citrons that were cultivated at that time, among them the sweet and bitter orange, the kumquat, and the tangerine.
But how it got into Europe is a mystery. However, by the 16th century there are already references that it had already been established in the Old Continent . Still, it may have spread just like sour, that is, via the Silk Road. Although it is the most plausible theory, at the moment it cannot be proven.
How did the orange arrive in Spain?
Surely from the hand of the Arabs. Towards the second half of the 12th century, the Sevillian Arab Abuzacaría Abenalawan wrote Quitab el Fellaha, or Book of Agriculture, in which he deals with the cultivation of various citrus fruits , such as the orange or lemon tree, implying that at that time they were plants well known. In addition, he wrote a Rural Calendar for Andalusia, and in particular for Seville, where he points out what monthly tasks must be carried out to have a well-cared-for orange tree. Even so, the success of the orange tree in Spanish territory was rather regional.
It was not until 1825 that it began to be cultivated in Castellón, Villareal, and later in Burriana and Almazora. Shortly after, ships from Catalonia and Mallorca arrived in these regions to load it in bulk and transport it to Tarragona, Barcelona and the south of France.
The pace of production stopped between 1834 and 1840 due to a Civil War. Even so, nothing lasts forever, and from 1845 orange trees were planted along the coast , both to the North and to the South, so that the entire peninsula could finally taste these fruits. So many oranges were produced that a few years later, in 1850, they began to be exported to the United Kingdom.
In Castellón, during the decade 1860-1870, the extension of citrus cultivation took place . Land that until then had been used to grow wheat and hemp, became land of orange, lemon, and other similar trees. And towards the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, due to industrialization and the improvement of means of transport, what was longed for occurred: the citrus boom. People, having a better quality of life, consumed more, and being able to move more quickly, the fruits arrived much fresher, which pleased the consumer, who returned to buy.
Orange crop crisis
During the First World War, production fell again. Consumption in the belligerent countries was restricted, which caused prices to fall, while production costs remained intact, so that during these years one of the worst crises to date was experienced . When the war ended, production recovered, but as a consequence of the economic crisis of 1929-1930, the expansion of cultivation was stopped again. The situation worsened even more with the Spanish Civil War, and with the Second World War. It was so serious that it almost stopped producing.
And so, we come to the present. There are no wars that prevent its cultivation, but the sector has not finished recovering . More are produced than are sold, so the price falls.
Curiosities of the orange tree
The orange tree is a highly ornamental citrus fruit, cultivated for several thousand years, as we have seen. But did you know that it has several uses? Already in 310 a. C., its interesting medicinal properties were known , which are:
- Helps calm nerves and reduce stress.
- Low tension.
- Fight insomnia.
- Fights and prevents the flu and respiratory problems, such as sore throat.
- Strengthens the immune system.