Developed by Arab citrus growers in the mid-19th century, the Jaffa orange is one of Israel’s most famous exports. Many already know that this thick-skinned orange is sweet and seedless. But what really makes this orange variety so different that it is the pride of the Middle East?
Keep reading as I break down all there is to know about the Jaffa orange.
History of the Jaffa Orange
The story of the Jaffa orange goes back to the mid-19th century when Arab orange growers began cultivating it. This variety has a long history and evolved as a mutation of Egyptian Baladi oranges.
Mutated Baladi varieties were first developed in regions close to the city of Jaffa in Israel. This is why the hybrid citrus variety bears the iconic name. The Jaffa’s parentage includes Baladi and sweet orange varieties.
As citrus cultivation increased in the area in the 1850s, citrus exports to Europe grew and grew. Over the following decades, advanced citrus cultivation methods took over and expanded the citrus industry as a whole.
Characteristics of Jaffa Orange
Also known as the shamouti orange, the Jaffa has a thick skin that is easy to peel. The tough skin is one reason why the orange has been incredibly popular for agricultural export and has reached many orange lovers around the world. It is also very cold-tolerant and has a long shelf life.
The Jaffa orange grows on a medium-sized plant with open thornless branches. Jaffa trees are sensitive to heat and aridity, and they do not adapt well to warm or semi-tropical climates.
The fruit grows up to medium to large in size and matures in an oval or ellipsoid shape. It is slightly flattened or depressed with a narrow or low collar. The surface, while leathery, is finely pitted and generally smooth.
Its flesh has a deep orange color with a pleasant fragrance and is moderately juicy. The actual fruit contains little to no seeds and is tender yet firm to the touch.
What Does Jaffa Orange Taste Like?
Jaffa oranges are sweet to taste and sometimes have a delayed bitter aftertaste.
What Do Jaffa Oranges Go With?
Jaffa oranges are not quite suited for juice-making. However, they blend wonderfully with a wide variety of ingredients.
For a kick of citrus, you can try combining Jaffa oranges with the following:
- Fruits: apricot, beetroot, cherry, cucumber, grapefruit, papaya, strawberry
- Nuts: walnut, hazelnut, almond, cashews, chestnuts, pistachios
- Herbs: cilantro, basil, mint, thyme, saffron, rosemary, ginger
- Spices: cinnamon, clove, star anise, nutmeg, vanilla
- Alcohol: white wine, almond liqueur, vodka, amaretto, tequila, brandy, rum, cognac, red wine
- Maple syrup
- And more.
There are no strict rules for pairing oranges with other food items. You can be as creative as possible and try them yourself!
What Can Jaffa Oranges Be Used To Make?
Due to their low moisture content, Jaffa oranges aren’t commonly used in juice production. Instead, they are best enjoyed fresh in salads or a standalone citrus snack.
These oranges are also used in savory dishes or sweets such as:
- Jaffa cakes
- Oatmeal with fruit and nuts
- Orange salsa
- Fruit kebabs
- Fruit salad
- Orange lemonade
- Jaffa orange marmalade
- Chocolate orange truffles
- Jaffa orange and cranberry panettoni
- Orange jams
- Jaffa orange and banana smoothie
- Asian-inspired chicken wrap with orange
If you are left with a pile of orange peels after experimenting with tons of oranges, you don’t have to throw them out. Jaffa peels contain many beneficial compounds. You can boil them in sugar and water to make candied peel to snack on or use as a garnish. Candied peels will keep in an airtight container for a month; even longer when frozen.
You can also use the skin of Jaffa oranges to make cherry jam with orange zest!
Health Benefits of Jaffa Orange
All citrus fruits are rich in Vitamin C. Jaffa oranges also contain protein, calcium, fat, fiber, potassium, folate, and Vitamins A, B1, and more.
Here are some important health benefits of eating Jaffa:
- Protects cells from damage
- Reduces the severity of colds
- Lowers risk of stroke
- Protects the body against heart diseases and cancer
- Maintains healthy skin, bones, blood vessels, and cartilage
- Contains anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties
- Lowers blood pressure and cholesterol
- Reduces risk of cardiovascular disease
- Prevents the formation of kidney stones
- Promotes brain function
And when you consume these oranges with iron-rich foods, you can further boost their nutrient intake.
If Jaffa oranges are too sour for you, use natural sweeteners such as honey, coconut sugar, agave nectar, or maple syrup to balance the flavor. Too much refined sugar can negate the health benefits of the fruit.
Can You Grow Jaffa Oranges in Your Home?
You can grow Jaffa oranges at home in the right conditions and by following the proper care instructions. However, it is a relatively complex process that may not be the best for beginners.
Jaffa is a scion variety, which means the best way to cultivate them is through grafting methods. This involves cutting out a piece of vegetative material from a parent tree and attaching it to another plant. Grafting joins the plants and helps them grow together.
Citrus trees have a vegetative propagation. They reproduce asexually through cuttings or fragments of the parent plant or specialized reproductive structures. This type of reproduction can be easily achieved by the grafting process.
Learn more about the grafting process with this complete guide to grafting.
Jaffa oranges result from naturally occurring mutations, which means it has already successfully developed desirable features. This plant exhibits high-end cold resistance, thick skin, peeling ease, seedless flesh, and a long shelf-life.
Full-sized orange trees can grow up to 20 feet tall. So if you want to grow your own orange groves and citrus plantations, keep them at least 12 to 25 feet away from other trees. Make sure no other structures interfere with your orange tree, as obstructions of any kind may reduce fruit yields.
Citrus trees need at least six hours of direct sunlight from the north-south direction.
Jaffa Orange Pests and Disease
The Shamouti orange is susceptible to fungal diseases such as Alternaria and pest mites such as:
- Eutetranychus banksi (Texas citrus mite)
- Tetranychus mexicanus (tetranychid)
- Phyllocoptruta oleivora (rust mite)
Alternaria is a fungus species that causes hay fever and allergies in humans. Alternaria rot is a fungal disease that commonly affects citrus fruits and appears as a rusting or decaying effect. It develops after citrus-picking season and is often detected in storage.
Pest mites feed on leaves, which leads to a reduced yield, and the bites appear as rust that affects the growth of the rest of the tree.
Jaffa oranges are also prone to alternate bearing characterized by an inexplicable phenomenon of alternating high yields and low yields.
When to Harvest Jaffa Oranges?
Citrus season is from November to March. Jaffa oranges are mid-season fruits that ripen during spring and summer.
Unfortunately, since these trees are prone to alternate bearing, they rarely produce the same yield every year.
Where To Buy Jaffa Orange Trees or Seeds?
Jaffa trees can only be cultivated via grafting, so you cannot purchase seeds to plant them.
To buy a young jaffa plant, you can check out the following:
Four Winds Growers
Four Winds Growers provides extensive citrus growing tips and will answer all questions to help customers successfully grow their plants of choice.
Spadefoot Nursery is a locally-owned nursery in Tucson, Arizona, that sells everything from fruit trees to bird feeders. They are open for in-person shopping, curbside pickup, and deliveries.
This Californian nursery has over 50 varieties of citrus plantations and other fruiting plants. They supply products to many retail nurseries and garden centers where you can buy their products or order online directly.
Where To Buy Jaffa Oranges?
If you aren’t interested in or too busy to attempt growing your own orange tree, you can just buy Jaffa oranges!
Try these sellers:
Ben Ezer Plantations
Ben Ezer delivers Israeli produce across the world. Look for their product catalog or contact them directly to order Jaffa oranges.
Tesco is a leading UK retailer that you can check out to order a package of your favorite citrus fruit.
STOP & SHOP
STOP & SHOP is another option that offers customers in-store, delivery, and pickup options.
Schedule a delivery, pickup, or shop at Martin’s Foods stores to find Jaffa oranges.
Wrapping up the Jaffa Orange
While not suitable for juicing, the Jaffa orange is the perfect ingredient for many types of desserts, jams, salads, and even savory dishes. It is a star of the orange industry, and you can try it by growing them yourself or ordering the fruit online.
Excited for more orange content? Check out our orange trees page to start learning everything there is to know about your favorite citrus!