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The Chinotto Sour Orange Tree

The Chinotto Sour Orange Tree, also called the Myrtle-Leaf Orange Tree, is one of the most popular dwarf citrus varieties. This little tree has become popular around the world not only for its hardiness, but also for its small size, attractive foliage as well as flowers, and of course, its bright, delicious fruit.

Chinotto Sour Orange Tree, an ornamental tree, that is great potted.
Chinotto Sour Orange Tree, an ornamental tree, that is great potted.

If you are looking for a citrus tree that will thrive in a small garden or yard, the Chinotto Sour Orange Tree could be a great choice. Despite its small size, this tree produces a good crop of fruit, especially with the proper care.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about growing and using the Chinotto Sour Orange. 

History of The Chinotto Sour Orange

Historians and gardeners aren’t sure when or how the Chinotto Sour Orange tree was first cultivated. The general consensus is that it was a natural mutation of a classic sour orange. It was first cultivated in certain regions in Italy before spreading to France. 

It remains popular in those regions to this day and is not widely grown outside Europe, at least not commercially. There are some specialty farmers or home gardeners that enjoy growing this tree in the United States, but it is more commonly grown in southern France, Malta, parts of Italy, and northern Africa. 

Chinotto Sour Orange Tree and Fruit Characteristics

The Chinotto Sour Orange Tree is a very small tree that is often grown as an ornamental. This is due to its attractive leaves, bright orange fruit, and fragrant white flowers. Because of its small size and thornless trunk, it is often grown in pots as well as used as a decorative tree on porches and in greenhouses. 

The leaves of the Chinotto Sour Orange Tree resemble those of the Myrtle Tree. For this reason, it is also called the Myrtle-Leaved Orange Tree.

The fruit itself is small and has a bumpy rind with a vibrantly deep orange color. 

Planting Zones 

Like most citrus trees, the Chinotto Sour Orange thrives in a warmer environment. The ideal planting zone is USDA zone 9. However, this tree also does well in colder climates, provided you bring it inside once the weather consistently drops below freezing at night. 

To learn more about how to grow the Chinotto Sour Orange tree, check out the link here

Size and Spacing

The Chinotto Sour Orange Tree is particularly small. At full maturity it reaches a maximum height of 10 feet. This makes it an ideal choice for planting in a pot and growing in your home or greenhouse. 

If you plant it in your garden, make sure it is spaced at least five feet away from any other plants or structures. This ensures not only that the roots can adequately spread to get the most nutrients from the soil, but also that the canopy has unfettered access to the sun. 

Pollination

The Chinotto Sour Orange Tree is self-fertile, so it does not need a pollination partner to produce fruit. However, if you would like to improve fertilization, you may want to help the tree by using a brush to transfer pollen across flowers. 

Tree Care 

The Chinotto Sour Orange Tree requires a moderate amount of care, but this is typical for a citrus tree. With the right measures, even a small tree should produce a good fruit yield. The most important thing is to make sure the tree stays warm and has access to enough sunlight. 

To fertilize, add a citrus mix three or four times a year. 

Sunlight

Like most citrus tree varieties, the Chinotto Sour Orange Tree needs a warm environment with plenty of access to sun. During the growing season, it needs at least half a day of full sun, with a full day being better. 

In the winter, if you choose to bring your orange tree inside, keep it in a temperate room with access to a sunny window. Keep it protected from chilly drafts. You may want to run a humidifier in the room or mist the tree daily with a spray bottle to keep it warm and moist. 

Watering

Watering the Chinotto Orange Tree.
Watering the Chinotto Sour Orange Tree.

Citrus trees should not be overly watered. Plant in well-draining soil to avoid drowning the roots. Water about once a week, only if it has not rained. Doing it more often will make the roots too wet. Water lightly and only when the soil around the rootstock is dry. 

Pruning 

The Chinotto Sour Orange has moderate pruning needs. The main goal is to open the canopy and ensure that sunlight can reach the central parts of the tree.  For the most part, you don’t need to prune more than that. If your orange tree is in a pot inside or on a patio or other enclosure, you can avoid pruning. 

To learn more about pruning the Chinotto Sour Orange Tree, which is similar to other citrus varieties, check out this link.

Diseases & Care 

Citrus trees like the Chinotto Sour Orange do not generally attract a lot of pests, nor are they particularly prone to many diseases. However, you should check them regularly to make sure they are in good health. 

They may attract mites or aphids if they are grown indoors. Outside, the biggest pest threat is the slug. If you notice any pest activity on the tree, spray it with a commercial insecticidal soap or simply wash them away.

To learn more about Chinotto Sour and Bitter Orange variety diseases and care, follow this link.

Common Uses For The Chinotto Sour Orange

The Chinotto Sour Orange is less commonly used in the United States, but it is a popular choice in certain parts of Europe, including Italy and France where it is used for marmalade, preserves, and liquor.

The fruit from a Chinotto Sour Orange Tree.
The fruit from a Chinotto Sour Orange Tree.

Here are some of the best ways to use the Chinotto Sour Orange.

What Does The Chinotto Sour Orange Taste Like? 

As the name implies, the Chinotto Sour Orange is a tart, acidic fruit that is juicy and delicious. Though you can eat them right off the tree, they are commonly used in cooking, which helps the sugars in the fruit caramelize to make a combination of sweetness and tartness. 

Cooking 

Although Chinotto Sour Oranges are not commonly used in cooking, you can incorporate them in both baking and cooking if you so wish. The tart juice tastes like a combination of an orange and a lemon, so it is possible to use the fruit, peel, and juice just as you would either of those fruits. 

Citrus is widely used in baking to make cakes, cookies, pie, and bread. But you can also find uses for it in savory cooking. It is often incorporated in glazes or sauces for meat or fish dishes. In the Middle East and parts of Europe, the zest of the Chinotto Sour Orange is often added to savory dishes much like lemon zest.

Eating Raw and Beverage Use

Some people may find the taste of the Chinotto Sour Orange too bitter to eat raw, though this depends on personal preference. 

Although, this fruit is excellent for incorporating into beverages and dishes. One of the most common uses for it in Italy is in carbonated soft drinks and as a flavoring in Amari, a herb-based liqueur. 

Check out this alcoholic drink recipe from San Pellegrino, a delicious Italian sparkling water brand, using their Chinotto Flavored Sparkling Drink.

Canning/Freezing/Drying

Aside from its use in beverages, one of the most popular ways to consume Chinotto Sour Oranges is in marmalade. The high acid content of the fruit makes it perfect for preserves, since it maintains some of its tanginess. This results in marmalade that is a perfect blend of sweet and sour. 

There are many other versions of orange jams, syrups, and jellies in which you can use the Chinotto Sour Orange. As we have seen, it is also a great choice for preserving through fermentation. The essential oils of the orange are also commonly extracted for use in cocktails. 

It is a popular choice for preserves thanks to its high pectin content, which helps jam hold together more effectively. 

You may also see the Chinotto Sour Orange candied or incorporated in tea, sauce, chutney, or even mustard varieties. 

Chinotto Sour Oranges can also be frozen. This is a good way to preserve them for use long after the harvest season. Bear in mind that freezing oranges may affect their texture. If you prefer, juice the oranges first and freeze the liquid to avoid texture changes. 

In general, you should avoid drying oranges, since they lose their juice and essentially become inedible. 

Health Benefits of The Chinotto Sour Orange

The Chinotto Sour Orange has many health benefits, some of which you might already know. The fruit is extremely high in vitamin C, which can help with immune system support. It also provides nutrients that help promote cell repair. 

One of the most distinct health benefits of oranges like the Chinotto is that they help your body absorb iron more effectively. If you take iron supplements, try taking them with a glass of orange juice to make them more effective. 

To learn more about the health benefits of Chinotto Sour Oranges, check out our post here.

Where To Buy The Chinotto Sour Orange

If you live in the United States, you might have a hard time getting your hands on a Chinotto Sour Orange. Although they are grown in the States, they are more common throughout Europe. You may not have luck finding them at your local supermarket. Instead, ask local farmers or visit markets to find a grower in your area. 

You can find many other varieties or orange trees for sale online at Nature Hills Nursery.

Wrapping Up The Chinotto Sour Orange Tree

The Chinotto Sour Orange Tree is a beautiful, low-maintenance citrus tree. It is a pleasure to see in any garden. It produces delicious, acidic fruit that is delicious in almost any form, especially in candies, jams, and beverages. 

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