Figs in squares and a recipe for Seville orange marmalade

During my recent visit to Andalusia, I noticed that in Seville, as in Granada and Cordoba, the most commonly planted street trees appeared to be citruses. It was a novelty to find these glossy leaved, and sometimes surprisingly thorny trees growing in the city’s thoroughfares and squares, because until this visit my only experience of the Seville orange was of the annual pilgrimage to the supermarket in mid January to secure a couple of kilos for marmalade making. This species of orange, Citrus aurantium, is favoured for preserve making because of its bitter peel and because its high  pectin content helps it to set.

This year I bought double the usual quantity of fruit and enjoyed a companionable day with a friend de-pithing and de-pipping, slicing and simmering. With the aid of two preserving pans we filled approximately 30 1lb jars with the sharply sweet preserve. After giving some jars as gifts, I estimate this will last until the autumn when I fill the gap until next January by making three fruit marmalade with sweet oranges, grapefruit and lemon. Whilst in Spain I learnt that the Spanish word for any  kind of jam or marmalade is ‘mermelada’ from which I understand our ‘marmalade’ derives, via the Portuguese word for quince, ‘marmelo’, which were originally boiled with sugar before the same technique was used with oranges.

Seville orange marmalade

1.5kg Seville oranges

2 lemons

2kg granulated sugar

1 muslin bag

8 sterilised jam jars


  1. Halve and juice the oranges, then scrape out the pith and pips into the muslin bag or onto a square of muslin which tie into a bag.
  2. Shred the rind thinly or thickly according to taste and add to the preserving pan with the orange juice, 2.5L of water and the muslin bag, immersed in the liquid and ties to the pan handle.
  3. Simmer gently, uncovered, for 2 to 2.5 hours until the orange rind is soft. Meanwhile place some small plates in the fridge to chill.
  4. Remove the muslin bag and squeeze as much of the juices into the pan as you can. Discard the bag.
  5. Add 2 kg of sugar and the juice of the lemons and stir over a low heat until dissolved. Turn up the heat and boil rapidly for 15 minutes.
  6. After 15 minutes, spoon a little marmalade onto a cold plate. There is a ‘set’ if the marmalade has a crinkly skin when pushed with  a finger. If it’s still runny, cook for another 5 minutes and test again.
  7. Remove the pan from the heat, skim any froth from the surface with a large spoon and leave for 15 minutes before filling the hot sterilised jars using a ladle with a lip.
  8. Seal the jars with a disc of waxed paper the surface of the marmalade, a larger disc of cellophane secured with an elastic band and the jar lid. Finally, label the jars.

The other street trees which made a big impression on me in Seville were the Moreton Bay Figs or Australian Banyan, Ficus macrophylla, which in at least two squares we saw served as monumental anchor points at each corner. One such square was Plaza Cristo de Burgos where our Air BnB apartment was located: in a large two patio building behind an ancient facade. Fig trees similarly framed the corners of the Plaza de Museo, one side of which is occupied by Seville’s wonderful Museo de Bellas Artes, in a former convent building. We took a break from the beautiful paintings and sculpture at an open facaded ice cream shop on the opposite side of the square where, appropriately enough, I chose the delicious fig ice cream. Not that the small stumpy stalked fruit of the Moreton Bay Fig is appetising, being described as unpalatable and dry. The little fruits litter the ground and are presumably consumed by birds and other fauna.

The striking features of these trees, sheer girth and height aside, are the sinuous aerial roots which wind around the spreading buttress roots and are protected in ‘overcoats’ of hessian sackcloth.  Clothing the roots in this way may be less a protective measure and more a method of preventing the tree living up to its species characteristic as a ‘strangler fig’. The magnificent specimens in this square are already huge and by restricting the younger aerial roots in this way, the scale of the trees might be controlled somewhat since I read that the roots are invasive and can damage pipework and pavements.

The oval evergreen leaves reflect the species epithet ‘macrophylla‘ meaning large leaved and create a dense shade which was welcome even in the last week of March.



One thought on “Figs in squares and a recipe for Seville orange marmalade

  1. ‘Seville’ sour oranges seem to be a popular topic now that the fruit is available. It was the least popular of our cultivars when I grew citrus trees. It was not even listed in our catalogue, and we grew only a few annually. Except for the most popular ‘Meyer’ lemon, they were the only one grown ungrafted on their own roots. I believe that the fruit ripened along with the other citrus during winter here. I am not certain if that is accurate, but I do not think it was this late. Those in Arizona are just now falling from the trees.

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