Thursday, February 04, 2010
The Perfumers Neroli Sussed Out
So What Variety of Orange Tree Gives us the Prized and Loved Neroli?
The short answer is - nobody knows for sure, but it's pretty certain that it isn't soley the often named variety Citrus aurantium var. amara. I started this quest to find out what variety in my last blog post. I was trying to figure out why Citrus aurantium var. Bouquet des Fleurs wasn't named, since that was the variety I studied at one of the top citrus schools in the world.
Turns out it's probably either/neither/a mix/or a bunch of others. I got feedback on a Yahoo group, and called UCR and spoke with one of the professors there. Neither source wanted to be quoted, since they're giving their opinion, and cannot point me to a source that will quote the facts. Due to their experience in the field, actually having visited neroli groves in several countries, I do accept their statements.
Citrus hybridizes readily and oftentimes there are gaps in the groves due to a tree dying for a number of reasons, and in the countries where the citrus for neroli is grown, it is an acceptable practice to just propagate from the fruit of existing trees, which can give rise to a number of variations in trees.
If the young trees that are raised from the seeds of the bitter orange trees exhibit similar growth and scent characteristics, they plant them. They have seen dozens of different varieties of sour orange, and even some sweet orange trees in the neroli groves. Amara and Bouquet des Fleurs may be the trees in some groves, but there is no guarantee they're the predominant tree, in fact, chances are they are just 'in the mix' as it were, one of many types.
In Florida, we're used to cloned trees, monoculture and the latest scientific information available. If someone has a Valencia orange grove, it's a Valencia orange grove. The neroli groves of Tunisia, Egypt, Italy, Greece and other lands have no such monoculture, so it seems that neroli is a lovely mix.
I kind of like that! If, someday, a disease attacks the amara variety, neroli will still continue to be produced, because other varieties are already in the distillation vat ;-)
It also gives me hope that in the effort I'm joining to attempt to introduce distillation of aromatic plants to Florida, we can spread the net wider in our efforts to identify trees that may contribute to a new neroli industry. Not stuck in the rut of having to choose just one type of variety, we can look at a traveling harvest set up. The blooms from sour and sweet groves can be distilled as they blossom, and the essential oil stored, and blended to create a lovely odor profile that closely matches neroli.
I really enjoyed this bit of research, and I'm hopeful for the establishment of neroli distillation in Florida. After all, the orange blossom is our state flower.