Monday, September 05, 2022

History of citrus fruit

Citrus fruits, like oranges, have been cultivated for the last 4,000 years in southern China and the tropical regions of Asia, especially the Malay Archipelago.

Citrus medica (citron) was the first citrus to spread west, apparently through Persia and the Southern Levant some-time between 400 and 600 B.C. and then to the western Mediterranean. Arab traders transported oranges to eastern Africa and the Middle East sometime between 100 and 700 A.D.

The earliest lemon (C. limon) botanical remains were found in the Forum Romanum (Rome) and are dated to the late first century BC/early first century AD.

The Roman conquests, the development of Arab trade routes, and the expansion of Islam contributed significantly to this dispersal. During the Arab occupation of Spain, citrus fruits first arrived in southern Europe. Sweet orange (C. sinesis) was introduced during the second half of the 15th century AD, probably via the trade route established by the Genoese, and later (16th century AD) by the Portuguese.

By the time Christopher Columbus sailed, orange trees were common in the Canary Islands. Early Spanish explorers (Ponce de Leon) planted the first orange trees near St. Augustine, Florida in the 1500s. Commercial production began nearly 300 years later – after the Civil War – when the development of the railroad allowed citrus growers to ship their products across the country.

By the 1800s, citrus fruits achieved worldwide distribution. In the 1890s, the demand for them greatly increased because physicians discovered that drinking the juice of oranges or other citrus fruits could prevent scurvy, a vitamin deficiency disease.
History of citrus fruit