Seville Snapshots: The Life, Death and Rebirth of an Orange Tree

A round lump rests each year at the bottom of my stocking. This gift, a California orange, is something we get every year from my grandfather, who signed us up to get a huge crate every December, even though he’s been gone for years.

It’s hard not to think of him when I see the beauties growing on the trees just outside my door. A dull smack, and one hits the ground rolling. While they’re not to be eaten in Seville (they’re used to make bitter marmalade), we often pick them up and make a cheap air freshener out of them. Just like a bullfight is characterized by three acts, culminating in the final faena, so is the life and death of the naranjas, whose final rebirth is a fragrant flower called azahar.

Orange trees enjoy the temperate, rainy winters in Seville. Come mid-February, the thunks become more frequent as workers use metal poles to dislodge the naranjas from their trees. The fruit is then gathered into large crates or burlap sacks and shipped off to Merry Old England.

Within days, the springtime rains bring along the small, silky buds that pop out amongst the waxy leaves. Sometimes they open early, filling the nighttime with a clean scent. My Irish friend claims they always come up around St. Patrick’s Day, so my nose has been upturned for the last few days, waiting.

Like all things springime in Seville, the azahar petals fall to the street within a few weeks, and the tempratures shoot up into the high 20s. The azahar is overpowered by incense from the Holy Week parades, and then by fried fish and sherry during the April Fair.

My friend told me that if I liked Seville during the Autumn and Winter, I’d swoon in the springtime.

She was right.

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.


  1. Oh, I just love that smell. It is great around our little town too. Southern Spain is such a delight.
    Heidi Wagoner recently posted..A Day Trip To Gibraltar – Part IMy Profile

  2. Incense and azahar are what make Seville so magical in the spring

  3. I loved Sevilla in the spring. The oranges were probably the best part. When I first visited it was a shock to my senses because Granada’s spring had not begun yet. I will always remember Sevilla in the springtime. This was a great way to start my day Cat as we’re expecting 1-2 inches of snow here!
    Mike recently posted..Becoming a Global CitizenMy Profile

  4. We don’t see many citrus trees here in the Canaries (I’m thinking the lack of rain since you mention that’s a reason they grow so well in Sevilla) – but I did have a garden with a very prolific lemon tree and, right at the bottom of the steps which lead down from terrace to garden an orange tree, which produced only a few blossoms each year, and never any fruit worth eating, but, oh the perfume from those, few blossoms! The cool thing about this climate is that it happened a couple of times a year too….now I miss my garden!
    Linda recently posted..Living a Quiet Island LifeMy Profile

  5. I love Andalucía. Although it is not my first experience with Azahar, that aroma left quite an impression on me during a country drive in el Valle de Lecrín. The aroma will be with me forever. Sadly, I was told all those Naranjas are wasted since it was not economically feasible to harvest them.
    Eduardo@Andaremos recently posted..Day trip to the Priorat wine region of Southern CatalunyaMy Profile

  6. Sunshine and Siestas says:

    The azahar seems to be a special gift after all of the rain and damp weather. Southern Spain is definitely special! And Edu, the orange are shipped to England to make bitter marmelade, so not all is lost!

  7. I fell in love with the orange trees on my visit to Seville. I’ve also tried the British marmalade from the fruit. Delicious! Nature is a great backdrop for the events of life :-)

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