[Sca-cooks] Tudor Recipe help - the Seville Orange

Terry Decker t.d.decker at att.net
Fri Jun 12 23:04:39 PDT 2009

> Bear wrote:
>> Unless you are doing very early Tudor, the orange could have been a sweet 
>> orange.  Sweet oranges enter Mediterranean Europe via Portugal in the 
>> first quarter of the 16th Century and quickly became the favorite orange 
>> of Europe.  By Elizabethean times, sweet and sour oranges would have been 
>> readily available.
> I call the Seville orange: Citrus ayrantium. Although introduced to the 
> Iberian Peninsula at the end of the 15 C or the beginning of the 16th I 
> question its availability in northern Europe before the 17-18C although it 
> could have been common on the Med. Shakespeare does advertise it in Much 
> Ado II i.204, saying "/The count is neither sad//, //nor sick//, //nor/ 
> merry, /nor/ well: but civil (ciuill), /count/; civil (ciuill) as an 
> orange, *.* . ."
> Now would that be a bitter or sweet count??
> Nola calls for "toronjas" which Brigid translates as oranges while others 
> might translate it as citron. In some places she specifies sour, in others 
> she indicates sour saying verjuice or orange juice or orange juice and 
> sugar, still in others she says wine or orange juice making one think that 
> could be sweet orange juice and in other cases there is no clue whether 
> sweet or sour. Nola was published in 1529  but it is thought to have been 
> written between 1470-1480.
> Suey

According to Davidson in The Oxford Companion to Food, the sour or Seville 
orange (C. aurantia), was being grown in Sicily at the beginning of the 11th 
Century and was being grown around Seville by the end of the 12th Century 
with the earliest known description of the orange being from Albertus Magnus 
in the 13th Century.  This tends to agree with most other sources, so I 
question the accuracy of a 15th Century introduction for the Seville orange.

A late 15th Century date works for sweet oranges (some variant of C. 
sinensis).  Again according to Davidson, the first known reference to sweet 
oranges occurs in the Savona city archives of 1471, however he suggests that 
the actual introduction (via the Geonese) was earlier, based on a quote from 
Platina, who says sweet oranges "are almost always suitable for the stomach 
as a first course and the tart ones may be sweetened with sugar."  I haven't 
located the quote, but I have found reference to oranges and Milham's 
footnote on "mala rancia."

I believe that oranges were definitely available in England during the Tudor 
period.  One of the people invloved in studying the plantain that was found 
in Tudor midden is working on a paper on the exotic fruit market in London.

Unfortunately, it is late and I will be traveling the next couple of days, 
so I will have to set this aside for now.


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