A world of raw materials

A world of raw materials

Bitter Orange

Botanical Name:
Citrus aurantium
Part used:
flower or leaf
Bitter Orange
Orange Bitter flowers
The "bigarade" or Bitter Orange tree produces a fruit that is the source of a richly varied product family used in perfumery and flavors.
The tree originated in Asia Minor and was introduced and planted throughout Mediterranean Europe by Arabs in the 9th century. It has become part of the Mediterranean landscape, decorating the streets of towns in Spain, Italy and Tunisia, and filling the air with an enchanting odor when it blossoms in the spring.
The Bitter Orange tree is cultivated primarily for its flowers, which are used to produce a wide range of "orange blossom" products, but also for its fruits (orange peel oil) and leaves (essential oil of Petitgrain).
For many years it has been grown on a large scale in the Grasse region as well as in southern Spain. Then it moved on to be cultivated in Algeria and even as far away as the Comoros, and nowadays there are still many sources of Bitter Orange.
Today the main bitter orange flowers producing countries are Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt. Other countries produce oils from the fruit peel (e.g. Bitter Orange oil from Côte d'Ivoire and Italy) and essential oils from the leaves (Petitgrain from Paraguay, Italy, Morocco, etc.).
The products derived from Bitter Orange blossom include:
- The essential oil, also called Neroli after an Italian princess who popularized it in the 17th century.
- Orange blossom water, a co-product of the distillation of Neroli, which can be extracted to obtain an absolute.
- Orange absolute, through the hexane extraction of orange flowers to produce a concrete and then an absolute.
Biolandes Maroc cultivates 45 hectares of organic Bitter Orange trees at its Khemisset site. The blossoms are harvested in March/April and processed to produce both Neroli and a concrete that serves as the base for an absolute made in France. The harvest mobilizes 300 pickers for 8 weeks at the farm.
In July teams of workers prune all the trees so that they retain a shape conducive to flower production and hand picking. The cut twigs and branches are distilled fresh to produce essential oil of Petitgrain.
The combined orange blossom production of the three major producing countries totals about 2,000 tons per year, processed to produce 1.5 to 2 tons of Neroli and 0.5 to 1 ton of Bitter Orange absolute.

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