Saturday 14 January 2012

John Parkinson's Orange Sprig Sallet

Carved preserved oranges
Here is a very simple, but effective thing. Seville oranges are in the shops here in England, which makes it marmalade making time. In a month's time, the International Marmalade Festival takes place here in Cumbria at Dalemain House just up the road from me. I make marmalade, and am one of the judges at the festival, but I also use a very large number of Seville oranges to make preserved and candied orange peels like those above. I need a lot of these for my courses. Seville oranges contain enormous numbers of pips. When making marmalade, I usually boil these in a little cloth bag to get extra pectin into the mix. However, when preparing preserved peel, I end up with a lot of pips which are surplus to requirements. So what I do is to plant them in the garden and in flowerpots - not to end up with a forest of orange trees in about twenty years, but to produce a small amount of tiny citrus flavoured sprigs later in the year, which are delicious chopped and sprinkled on top of a salad.

Seville oranges are notorious for the sheer abundance of their pips
A flowerpot sown with Seville orange pips ready to be covered with compost
The same flowerpot a few months later
I found this idea in John Parkinson's wonderful book on gardening, Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris (London: 1629). Parkinson was 'herbarist' to James I and had a physic garden in Long Acre in Covent Garden. This is what he says,

 "The kernels or seeds beeing cast into the ground in the spring time, will quickly grow up, (but will not abide the winter with us, to bee kept for growing trees) and when they are of a finger length high, being pluckt up, and put among sallets, will give them a marvellous fine aromatic or spicy taste, very acceptable." 

Yesterday, I rescued about two hundred of these 'kernels' and 'cast' them in a number of flower pots. When they are ready, I will tell you what I do with them.

John Parkinson. Woodcut from Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris  (London: 1629)
Parkinson names his orange as the Mala Arantia,  equivalent to our bitter Seville orange Citrus X aurantium. At this time he did not know of the existence of the sweet orange, which became known as the Portugal, or China orange after it was introduced into Europe by the Portuguese. As the marmalade season advances, there will be much more on this blog on matters citrus.

Mala arantia from John Parkinson, Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris  (London: 1629)

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