Dubrovnik Bitter Orange

Dubrovnik has always been famous for its unmatched historic beauty, and more recently for serving as a location for the Game of Thrones television series. But many don’t know how one plant ruled the former republic long time ago.

Like sweet oranges, the bitter orange (Citrus aurantium L) originated in northeast India, Burma and China. They are quite similar, but bitter orange has substantially higher acidity and a characteristic aroma of ground leaves.

The bitter orange came to Europe in the 10th century, arrived in southern Italy 200 years later, then made its way from Sicily to the Dubrovnik Republic, where this story begins.

The bitter orange tree was first used as a decoration in city and aristocratic gardens, then later in villages in Dubrovnik.  Apart from the beauty of the tree, the bitter orange was valued for its usefulness. Dubrovnik gelatin was unimaginable without its juice. Its peel was candied as arancini and made into pastries. Homemade marmalade and liqueurs were common household items, and local cakes with bitter orange are widely renowned. The juice was also used for cooking pork, and the leaves can be cooked into a soothing decoction.

dubrovnik bitter orange

Back to the throne

The association DEŠA – Dubrovnik wanted to revive these old traditions, and based on old recipes they started the project “Dubrovnik bitter orange jam” with guidance from the Osijek Faculty of Food Technology. The project attracted great interest in 2006, when they began jam production and workshops teaching the importance of the bitter orange’s legacy. A large number of families from the Dubrovnik area started family farms and got involved in the production and revival of the bitter orange. With DEŠA’s project this neglected botanical’s historical significance was once again appreciated.

The world’s sweetest festival

The Croatian Festival of Jams and Marmalade emerged from DEŠA’s original project, giving yet another point of historical interest to the city during the tourist season. It primarily serves as a venue for the representation of small family farms from rural areas, but also acts as a cultural event, encapsulating tradition, customs and authentic crafts and transforming them into unique gastronomic souvenirs.

One more event is Bitter Orange Day, the goal of which is further promotion of the Dubrovnik orange. Its humanitarian character is one more reason to visit famous Festival of St. Vlaho in February.

Read more HERE