Skip to Content

Maltese Orange Tree

The Maltese Orange tree provides delicious and juicy fruits that are valued in every fruit market! They are large, round citrus with a hearty skin and sweet taste. They have a long history of being one of the most in-demand varieties on the market. Gardeners all over the world cultivate these trees, rewarded with a beautiful harvest of citrus year after year.

Maltese Orange Tree
Fresh Maltesee Oranges on a Tree.

With the right amount of care and attention as well as the proper growing conditions, these trees will flourish in your own backyard. Exotic yet familiar, the Maltese orange tree is a prize in many gardens. In Algeria, it is called “Portugaise,” however in most other locations it is the Maltese orange. It is not commercially available in many regions, so grow your own to have access to this jewel of fruits.

History of the Maltese Orange Tree

All species of orange trees are domestic cultivars carefully curated and bred to create fruits and trees with the most desirable qualities. The Malta blood orange is not any different. It is named after the island of Malta, a beautiful island in the Mediterranean sea. They may have originated in Italy or Spain.

Maltese Oranges

Every variety of sweet oranges, including the blood orange, come from gardens. Their history is dated back to Asia and India around 1500 AC. The orange traditionally was a luxury item, and was adored in the royal courts of France, Spain and other areas of Europe during the Age of Enlightenment.

In 1780, the king of France’s sisters invested in a Maltese orange garden to have access to the blood orange variety. To this day, in France it is known as the “Queen of Oranges.” Tradesmen competed for supply, and would carefully wrap each fruit in paper to be shipped.

Writers and explorers loved the qualities of these fruits. An inquisitor named Fabio Chigi established them in the Palace Garden of Birgu, Malta and wrote to the Holy Office of Rome about the joys of Maltese oranges in 1635. Scottish author Patrick Brydone described them as the “best blood oranges in the world.”

Malta Orange Characteristics

The Malta orange has several distinguishing characteristics that helps it stand out from other fruits. Maltese oranges are small fruits with thin skin. Their distinguishing characteristic is their burgundy colored interior, which gives them the distinction of a blood orange. It has a moderately vigourous fruiting pattern, and it may have a tendency to alternate bearing.  

Planting Zones 

When you grow the Malta orange outdoors, you need to be mindful of the planting zones. It can also be grown indoors. The Malta orange comes from the Mediterranean climate. They typically have low to no tolerance for freezing temperatures or frost, but with proper care they can weather the winter.

The orange is a subtropical plant. During its growing period, it will need temperatures from 55º to 100º F. Ideal winter temperatures are 35º to 50º F. Oranges thrive in grow zones 9-10.

How To Grow The Maltese Orange

Size and Spacing

Proper size and spacing is needed to help the Malta orange grow their best. Maltese Orange trees grow from 12 to 30 feet in height. Their width can range from 8 to 25 feet, varying a lot on the pruning. Because of their spread, they are generally planted 30 ft to 60 ft apart from each other’s center.

Pollination

Knowing their pollination is important to get the best yield. Blood orange trees have the characteristic of being self-fertile. While one tree will be able to fruit by itself, planting them in a group increases the yield for each tree.

Tree Care 

The right tree care and environmental factors help you to maintain a healthy and fruitful Maltese Orange tree. They can live for approximately fifty years; giving them ample care and the right conditions, especially when they are becoming established, helps them live long lives.

Sunlight

Every plant needs sunlight, and Malta orange trees, in particular, need a lot. These trees can grow indoors or outdoors. They require ample sunlight or light in order to be the most vigorous; plan for 12 to 16 hours of sunlight a day for the best results. Hot summers and mild winters help the fruit to produce their vibrant colors.

Watering

The citrus trees need plenty of water to grow their foliage and produce ripe, juicy fruits.  A tree in the hot summer may require up to 29.5 gallons of water a day on commercial farms! Young trees need deep and frequent waterings, especially during the first two years when their roots are developing. You can see if the tree needs watering or not– if the leaves are wilting, give it more. 

Pruning The Maltese Orange Tree

Blood oranges are moderately productive, and they need relatively less pruning than other types of trees. You can create a dwarf type tree with the right type of pruning thought it may reduce the productivity of the tree.

It is recommended to prune the tree in late February or early March, according to you and what you see as a problem.

What Does the Maltese Orange Taste Like?

The maltese orange has a deliciously juicy and sweet taste. It is mild and satisfying. While navel oranges or other varieties have a tangy flavor, blood oranges have a much softer flavor. Their red color comes from an abundance of the pigment anthocyanin. It derives in the peel and goes into the flesh of the skin.

Some people say that the Maltese orange tastes more like a raspberry, and it does have the gentle, pleasant sweetness rather than the acidic tartness of most oranges. Of all the blood oranges, the Maltese variety is widely considered to be the sweetest.

Cooking

Cooking with the Maltese orange tree can make for some delicious and unforgettable snacks. French Sauce Maltaise is one of the first recipes published that uses the Malta blood orange. You can also make delicious juices, smoothies or even ice cream.

Add fruit pieces to a salad, or the juice to mocktails or cocktails. Finally, adding it to baked goods such as cakes makes for a unique treat.

Eating Raw

Of course, eating the fruits raw and off the tree is one of life’s greatest simple pleasures. Wait until the skin has turned a bright orange color. The normal season for citrus fruits is around early winter to spring. The skin peels off easily with your hands, or you can cut them into slices with the skin intact. While the skin is edible, most people peel oranges as it is tough and pithy. Raw, fresh-squeezed orange juice is also simple to make and delicious.

Canning / Freezing / Drying

Save your orange harvest to enjoy any time of year by canning, freezing or drying! Preserve oranges in syrup to enjoy later. Canning is easy to do in jars Freeze them dry, in juice or syrup to defrost and eat for up to six months.

Link To recipes on Minnetonka Orchards

Health Benefits of that Fruit  

Oranges are used all over the world for their rich nutritional benefits. 

They have plenty of vitamin C, which is an essential nutrient. Vitamin C helps boost the immune system, is an antioxident and can even help with wound healing and collagen building. For healthier skin, vitamin C is a must. Vitamin C helps purify the blood and can lower cholesterol levels.

Another essential nutrient found in blood oranges is vitamin A. They also contain many other minerals such as manganese, potassium, and fiber. Vitamin B-9 is also abundantly found in many varieties of oranges, which is an important micronutrient for brain and nerve health.

Where To Buy Maltese Oranges

If you are looking for a good variety of orange trees, you can check out Nature Hills Nursery.

The Malta orange fruit has been a prize for many years. They are somewhat difficult to find, and can only be purchased seasonally because of their rariety and the fact they are so high in demand.

You may be able to find some for sale in their growing regions, including Texas, California, Florida. Check local farmers markets and fruit stands around the time of harvest, which is in winter to spring. You may also be able to find sellers online who can ship the fruit to you any time of year. 

Fruit Facts / FAQs 

Is this fruit easy or hard to peel?

While many varieties of blood oranges have thick, hard to peel exteriors, this particular varietal has a thinner skin and it will be more easy to peel.

Where did the blood orange come from?

The lower night temperatures in the Mediterranean helped encourage the growth of the pigments that make the fruit. This results in the distinctly crimson hue of the fruit. Most people cite it from a mutation in Sicilian oranges in the 17th century. Before that, oranges were cultivated in China and India, after many years of breeding lemon trees to produce round, sweet fruits.

Wrapping up The Maltese Orange Tree 

This variety of blood orange is world famous, and will definitely be a fantastic addition to any garden. The fruits are notoriously delicious and are known as the best and sweetest tasting available. With the right conditions and watering schedule, you can help nurture the tree to live for decades– the Malta Orange may be able to live up to 50 years or more.

The Clementine Tree
← Previous
The Fukumoto Orange Tree
Next →