Oranges from Telde, Gran Canaria

An early reference to Oranges in the Canary Islands and especially Telde, Gran Canaria, was in 1583 when Thomas Nicholas from London  [born 1532] wrote his book  “ Islands of Canaria with their strange fruits and commodities”.  There he referred to “This Iland hath singular good wine, especially in the towne of Telde, and sundrie sortes of good frutes, as Batata, Mellons, peares, Ayples, Orenges, Lemmons, Pomegranads, Figs, Peaches of diverse sortes, and many other fruites”.

Over 300 years later in 1911, Lady Du Cane’s two un-chaperoned English daughters, Florence and Ella, travelled extensively in the Canary Islands writing and painting for their book “The Canary Islands” in which they refer to “Telde, famous for its oranges – said to be the best in the world.”

Telde, from 1351until1404, had been the “Catholic capital” of the Eastern Province [Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Fuetaventura] of the Catholic Diócesis Canariense following Pope Clement VI’s Papal Bull of 1344 encouraging the conquest of the Canary Islands by the Count of Clermont, Admiral of France, in order to encourage missionary conversion of the indigeneuos population. In 1351 the Pope then encouraged the Majorcans under their King James III, then annexed to Aragon, to join in the fray before the Spanish finally flexed their muscles and firearms.

Later urban expansion from Las Palmas in the 20th century resulted in a great reduction of the orange farms around Telde although there are still rewarding walks to be had in the area and nearby which pass some of the remaining orange groves.

In 2012 it was the three hectare [7.5 acres] orange farm of Senor Jose Medina at El Ejido,Telde which the local tasting jury awarded first prize where he has been farming for 30 years [since he was in his 50’s] with a 2012 production of around 70,000 kilos from about 1,200 trees. The fine Telde orange was also celebrated at the annual marathon.

23 thoughts on “Oranges from Telde, Gran Canaria

  1. How very interesting. Does anyone in the Canary Islands have more information about the history of orange growing in those wonderful islands? Being the furthest most southerly part of the European Union, the oranges there will surely be special.

  2. There used to be a “Citrus Centre” near Pulborough,Suusex in the UK that had general information about orange growing and maybe the history thereof. In Spain there was a citrus museum “Museu de la Taronja” but they may have closed due to Government cuts and in Madrid it may be worth contacting Instituto San Isidro de Madrid, Herbario. You’ll need to do so in Spanish and be patient……. Good luck – sounds an interesting project.

  3. The University at Las Palmas has some very helpful departments involved in different parts of your research. They may have a “work experience” student who could help you. The Telde Chamber of Commerce might also be of assistance..

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  5. Oranges taken to Americas by Christopher [Colon]Columbus
    You may be aware of the good authority that the first orange seeds taken to The New World came from the Canary Islands thus helping to spawn the enormous orange industry in “The New World” of the 21st Century.
    Bartolomé de Las Casas in his Historia de las Indias, the manuscript of which was written in the period between 1520 and 1559 (Las Casas, 1875-1876), gave a definite account of the taking of citrus seeds to America by Columbus on his second expedition, which sailed from the Bay of Cadiz, Spain, on September 25,1493.

    According to the statement of Las Casas (vol. 1, chap. 83, p. 3), Columbus, with his fleet of seventeen vessels, proceeded southwest to the Grand Canary Island and thence on October 5, 1493, to the island of Gomera, also one of the Canary group, where a stop was made. Las Casas stated that “during this time, with great haste he [Columbus] provided himself with some cattle, which he and those who came there with him bought.…They bought hens and also grains, and seeds of oranges, lemons, and citrons, melons, and all kinds of vegetables; and this was the origin of everything that is there (that is in Hispaniola) today of the things of Castile.” According to this account of Las Casas, Columbus at Gomera awaited favorable winds and finally set sail on October 13, arriving at Hispaniola (Haiti) on November 22, 1493. Then followed the establishment of the new colony of Isabella, where orchards and gardens were subsequently planted.

    The statements of Las Casas provide positive evidence that orange, lemon, and citron seeds were taken to America from the island of Gomera. It seems peculiar that, in outfitting the expedition, supplies of this sort were not procured in Spain, where, as previously described, all these fruits were then cultivated and highly prized. It is probable, however, that the season’s citrus crop in Spain was not sufficiently matured to be used for seed when Columbus left on September 25, and that he definitely planned to secure stocks of such seeds in the Canary Islands, where the season of ripening is earlier.

    That oranges were grown in the Canary Islands at that time (1493) is indicated in Louis de Cadamosto’s account of his voyage to Guinea, written in 1463, in which he spoke of oranges as being well known in the Canaries (Gallesio, 1811, p. 227).

    A full set of the works of Bartolomé de Las Casas in his Historia de las Indiasis available to authorised research students at the excellent Christopher [Colon] Columbus Library in Las Palmas.

  6. When did the first oranges arrive in England?

    In the year 1290, Oranges are recorded [by Royal Household accounts] as being bought by Queen Eleanor of England [wife of King Edward I] from a Spanish ship arriving in Portsmouth, Hampshire.

    However, Queen Eleanor was originally Eleanor of Castile in Spain whose father was King Ferdinand III of Castile so she probably knew of oranges well before 1290. Furthermore, she attended the death of her father in Seville in 1252 where he is buried in the cathedral. This cathedral had been the famous mosque up to 1248 [when the Christians took over] and still has a “Patio de los Naranjos” [Garden of Orange Trees] used as a sahn or bathing/pre-prayer washing place for Muslims.

    So, Queen Eleanor would surely have been aware of oranges from her visit to Seville in 1252 and perhaps equally so from having accompanied her husband, King Edward I of England on his earlier crusade[s] to the Middle East/Holy Land from whence came the orange via the Arabs/Moors into Spain in the 800’s/900’s.

    The difficulty is the lack of evidence [at April 2013] of oranges arriving into England any earlier than 1290.

  7. When did orange trees first arrive in the Canary Islands? Did visiting Arabs or Berbers from Morocco bring them across long before the invading Europeans? Did the Guanches cultivate oranges?

  8. In Riviera Nature Notes (1898) dedicated to Sir Thomas Hanbury K.C.V.O.[ the generous donor of the 24ha (60 acres) at Wisley, England to the Royal Horticultural Society], it is suggested that oranges originally came to Europe by the long sea route from the East Indies. These ships were Portuguese [following Dom Vasco de Gama’s discoveries in the late 15th century] which is why in several parts of Europe up to the late 19th century an “orange” was often referred to as a “Portugal”. Such a sea route would have sailed northwards up the coast of [now] Senegal, Mauritania and Morocco with landings in the Canary Islands. This may, therefore, be the origins of the orange trees’ first arrival in the Canary Islands.

  9. Is there any information about early orange products or recipes. Why, for example, did “Marmalade” jam originate from Scotland that has no orange trees?

  10. Your readers may wish to read “Shu-King” [thought to be edited by Confucius around 500BC] where the earliest known mention is made of citrus trees. Originally they were very small, bitter and full of seeds. When the Moors invaded Spain in the 10th century AD, they brought oranges with them – a sacred fruit only to be used in religious rites, for medicinal purposes or as a flavouring in food and drink. The fruits were heavily guarded – so much so that any unauthorised person who ate or even touched an orange did so on pain of death. At the end of the Moors’ 500 year reign in Spain, a most valuable legacy left was the collection of fine orange groves.

    你的讀者可能希望閱讀“書王”[認為孔子編輯公元前500年左右],其中已知的最早提到了柑橘樹。原來他們是非常小的,又苦又充滿希望的種子。當摩爾人入侵西班牙在公元10世紀,他們帶來了橙子與他們 – 一個神聖的水果只有在宗教儀式中使用,藥用,或在食品和飲料調味。果實被戒備森嚴 – 以至於任何未經授權的人誰吃的,也摸不著的橙色這樣做是對死亡的痛苦。在摩爾人“500年的統治西班牙的最後,最寶貴的遺產留給了精美的橘樹的集合。

    Sus lectores pueden querer leer “Shu-King” [pensaron para ser editados por Confucio alrededor de 500 aC], donde la mención más antigua conocida se hace de árboles de cítricos. Originalmente eran muy pequeña, amargo y lleno de semillas. Cuando los moros invadieron España en el siglo 10 dC, trajeron naranjas con ellos – un fruto sagrado sólo para ser utilizado en ritos religiosos, con fines medicinales o como condimento en la comida y la bebida. Los frutos fueron fuertemente custodiadas – tanto es así que cualquier persona no autorizada que comieron o incluso tocó una naranja lo hizo bajo pena de muerte. Al final de 500 años reinado de los moros en España, un legado más valioso que quedaba era la colección de campos de naranjos finas.

  11. The story of Scottish (Dundee) Marmalade begins back in the 18th century when a Spanish ship took refuge from a storm, in the harbour at Dundee, Scotland. On board was a consignment of Seville Oranges – which a local grocer decided to purchase.
    On taking them home to his wife, the couple discovered the oranges were too bitter to eat. The grocer’s wife saw the potential in the oranges and boiled them up with sugar, to create the delicious preserve now known as Scottish (Dundee) Orange Marmalade.
    Although the many recipes have changed since then, the best marmalade is still produced in traditional copper pans today.

  12. Golden Apples in the Garden of Hesperides. Lord Frederick Leighton’s famous 19th century painting (suggesting that the garden was in the Canary Islands) was based on mythology. Is there any historical evidence to support that story?

  13. Lord Leighton may have been influenced by the book written in 1646 by Giovanni Battista Ferrari called “Hesperides, or, The Cultivation and Use of Golden Apples” The correct name was Hesperides, sive, De Malorum aureorum cultura et usu. Ferrari was a Jesuit priest and professor of Hebrew at Collegio Romano, the Jesuit seminary in Rome. This was a treatise to create a citrus taxonomy that would account for all the intermediate fruits: the hybrids and chimeras. It was based on much detailed technical research.

  14. Why do poets and artists sometimes refer to oranges as “Golden Apples”? Is there any botanical reason for this?

    Fiona Perry,

  15. All oranges begin as a green colour and not unlike apples in size and shape. Then it needs the development of a pigment called anthocyanin to change the colour to yellow and then orange. The development of anthocyanin in oranges only happens in latitudes whose climates have a difference of at least ten degrees Celsius between day and night time temperatures while the fruit is ripening. In Brazil and West Africa, for example, the oranges remain green even when harvested.

    Dr Feliz Keiller

  16. Are there many Bergamot citrus trees in the Canary Islands? I read somewhere that Christopher Columbus originally brought them back to mainland Europe or is this another Christopher Columbus “story”?

  17. Hi Rosie – guess you may have been reading Helena Attlee’s excellent book [The Land Where Lemons Grow, London 2014 p.158] where the legend of the Bergamot coming from here in the Canaries is set out. We don’t have any commercial Citrus bergamia but open to suggestions. You refer to the legend being linked to Cristoforo Columbo born in Genoa (or his name in English, Christopher Dove) although here in Spanish Canaries he is known as Cristóbal Colón. Only in northern Europe and North America is he known by the earlier Latin name of Christopher Columbus. This terrible exploiter/punisher of people (please read Hans Koning’s book Columbus His Enterprise, London 1991) always sailed west from here and so could not have taken anything from here to Spain directly. The Spanish and their terrifying attack dogs [hence the name for these islands – from the Latin canine] were still conquering/ethnically cleansing these islands for another three years after CC’s first visit in 1492. Learning how “to deal with natives”[and buying a few attack dogs on subsequent visits] may have been another reason for CC “calling by” these islands – apart from the useful winds. Juan

  18. Is it true that the Jewish people were mainly responsible for the expansion of the citrus flora in Western Europe?
    Hannah von Kessler, Berlin

  19. Hello Hannah,
    The Citron (or esrog as it is known in Hebrew) is considered one of the main origins of the Citrus family. It is an important fruit in Orthodox Jewish rituals especially amongst the Lubavitcher Jews. The Bible [Leviticus: Chapter 23,verse 40] refers to the “goodly tree” and Orthodox Jews believe the Citron to be the fruit of the “goodly tree” for use in their important Sukkoth festival.

    The Citron is believed to have come from India and early [about 800 BC] Sanskrit sacred texts refer to the fruit as Jambila. From India merchants carried the long lasting aromatic fruit to Persia and hence to Babylon where the exiled Jews would have known it and, in about 580BC, carried it back to Palestine after their exile.

    Not only was the Citron used as an insecticide [the peel contains limonoids] and a preventative against poisoning but the oil was thought to be a contraceptive when spread over genitals prior to lovemaking. In the 17th century Citron oil was used during embalming.

    During the Jews Revolt against the Roman Empire [AD 66/70] coins were minted by the Jews showing, evidently, an esrog instead of Emperor Nero’s head. When the Revolt failed and the Diaspora started west across the Mediterranean countries, the religiously important Citron travelled with the Jews who began their own cultivation. So, when the Arabs arrived in Western Europe in the 9th century bringing oranges and lemons it was often the Jewish Citron farmers who were well placed to develop the commercial cultivation of the expanding citrus family.

    Paco Fernandez

  20. This year it is 520 years since Vasco de Gama discovered the new route to India. Did he stop in The Canary Islands on his way home to deliver some sweet oranges for the first time?

  21. Hello Daniel – very unlikely. Although Vasco da Gama sailed out from Portugal to India via the Canary Islands in July 1497 [via Tenerife we are told but perhaps not, if at all, stopping as they were Spanish owned by then] he returned via the Azores where he buried his brother there in 1499. In addition [and this applied to all the many subsequent Portuguese trade convoys to India] the trade winds blow “clock-wise” so going out is via the Canary Islands [as Colon Columbus had first done in 1492 before then sailing across the Atlantic] but returning takes them further west and then back via Azores/Madeira rather than the Canary Islands – have a look at your Atlas.

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