Bitter Oranges

The Old Jewish Quarter in Granada, Spain, is full of wonderful murals. I saw dozens of them today on a walking tour with Hadrian, who has devoted the past ten years to the city’s street art. But I want to talk about orange trees. I chose a photo of a mural honoring Syrian refugees because it shows an orange tree. Orange trees line the streets of Granada and many other Andalusian cities. At this time of year, they are full of bright, heavy fruit. The original trees were brought here by either the Romans or the Muslims, depending on who you ask, and modern Spaniards love them. But, they tell you, don’t eat the oranges! They are very bitter! They will make you sick!

I had questions.

Why would the Muslims (or Romans) and Spaniards plant a variety of orange tree that produces inedible fruit? The blossoms of the bitter orange tree are much more fragrant than those of the sweeter varieties. We love their smell!

What happens to the oranges? Some of them are sent to England, and made into marmalade. The Queen loves Spanish oranges for her marmalade!

Don’t Spaniards make marmalade? Some do. In 2021, Spain cleaned up at England’s annual Marmalade Awards!

These unimportant details — another reason to get up in the morning.


  1. This post brought back memories of my first visit to the beautiful park and grounds surrounding the California State Capitol in Sacramento back in 1967.

    Fresh out of college after living on the East Coast and in the Midwest, I was stunned to find many giant orange trees in full bloom filled with delicious looking fruit. I picked a few of the ones in easy reach and took them home to share with my family. Only then did we discover their tragic hidden flaw- they were as bitter and inedible as the ones you report on residing in Granada.

    Granted the trees were beautiful and the smell emanating from them divine, but I always considered this experience to be the first trick California played on me- pretty on the outside, but beware of what is hidden out of view inside.

    BTW, another GREAT photo and you asked good questions so I feel better informed than before!

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