Thank goodness for spring—a season that reinvigorates and brightens the soul. This time of year promises new beginnings with the resurgence of birds chirping, buds on the trees, and unfolding blooms. A springtime blossom dear to us is, of course, the flowers from the Seville orange tree. Their fragrant white petals create the Middle Eastern, North African, and Mediterranean pantry staple, orange blossom water, which is essential to many sweets and beverages, and even home remedies and beauty treatments.
The Seville orange isn’t typically a fruit one would enjoy in its whole form due to its very sour and bitter flavor, unlike its sweet cousin the mandarin orange. Instead, the fruit is used in other applications such as marmalades or substitutes for other citrus juices. In Lebanon, Seville orange trees begin blooming in late February and into March. Once the trees bloom, the beautiful (and delightfully fragrant) ritual of the orange blossom harvest ensues. While some companies have found ways to mass produce commercial orange blossom water, there fortunately are some artisans who continue to preserve the customary techniques of extracting the oil from the petals to create smaller-batch, premium orange blossom water.
The artisanal method of producing orange blossom water has been used for thousands of years. The blooms are first hand-plucked from the trees and tossed to the tarps, bags, or cloths that lay beneath the tree to catch the yield. Next, the blooms are separated by hand from any excessive materials such as twigs and leaves. Once gathered and separated, the petals undergo the distillation process. The petals’ steam that is extracted will be condensed into the aromatic liquid.
From café blanc to baked goods, you’ll enjoy the intense yet delicate flavors of orange blossom water. Naturally, it has orange-like qualities, but is also bitter, flowery, and tangy, adding a more complex flavor to your food and drinks. Remember that a little goes a long way with orange blossom water. You’ll see in the recipe below that only a teaspoon is used to help flavor a large bowl of fruit. Mix up this fruit salad throughout the summer for a seasonal, fragrant, and healthy treat.
- Freshly squeeze juice from 1 large orange
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon orange blossom water
- 1½ pounds mixed fruit (peaches, apricots, mixed berries)
- Garnish with mint leaves
Our suppliers AviSaine and Adonis Valley both carry exceptional artisanal orange blossom water. AviSaine’s variety hails from blossoms picked in the Maghdouche village, while Adonis Valley’s blooms come from further north in Fatri. Discover these delightful orange blossom waters here and see a glimpse of the orange blossom water production process below, compliments of AviSaine.