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March 11, 2009 2:52 PM

Seville oranges: going, going, gone?

Posted by Nancy Leson

"I was just reading your article about making marmalade from Seville oranges," Eater Teresa Jonsson wrote this morning. "Do you know where I can find fresh Sevilles in Seattle? I've been calling stores all over the place and have been unsuccessful." Funny she should ask. Earlier this month I was trolling the produce aisles at Shoreline Central Market when I found this:

I'd never seen a fresh Seville orange at the market before, so, just for science, I bought one. Then I put it in the fruit bin in my fridge, where it immediately was buried in a barrage of grapefruits, clementines, lemons (big ones, finally on sale!) and a net-bag full of kumquats used as a garnish for Mac's Manhattans. So, I just dug it out and sliced into it:

When I bit into the fruit, the sensation was like biting into a lemon (I'm puckering my lips as I write). Unlike sweet oranges cultivated for juice or for eating out-of-hand, the acidic Seville is a "bitter orange" whose sour juice and aromatic rind is prized by marmalade mavens the world over. Of course this marmalade maker finds it much more convenient (and I dare say, less expensive) to open a can:

And that can's going to come in handy, Teresa, because we're at the tail-end of the Seville season. Fresh Sevilles are available locally beginning in December. And no, the one I bought didn't come from Spain, though they're widely cultivated in the Mediterranean. It's from California's Rising C Ranches. I called Shoreline Central Market to see if they've still got some (nope!). But Rising C still has Sevilles available, according to Ross Buell, citrus buyer at Portland's Pacific Coast Fruit -- who procures them for Central Market stores throughout Puget Sound.

Seattle's own Charlie's Produce buys them from Rising C as well, says my pal "The Broccoli Whisperer" Mike Osborn. Mike regularly sells the fruit at Sosio's produce stand in Pike Place Market. "We don't display them," he says, "but we often have them and sell quite a few to people who know we sell them." Those customers can always special-order their Sevilles.

The Seville season is brief (see Rising C's chart right here), said the Portland citrus-buyer, but it ain't over till it's over. He called the grower to see what's what. "She's got a few left," he told me at lunchtime. "A few?" I asked. "I could grab another 15 boxes," he said, referring to the 20-pound cartons the fruit is shipped in, "and load them today."

Moral of the story: Know your produce guy. Ask and ye shall receive. You want fresh Sevilles for marmalade, they can get them. But you'd better move fast! And if any of you see Sevilles while you're out and about over the next week or so, give me a heads-up here on the blog, OK?

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