Urban Planner Housemate likes to put the radio on in the kitchen in the mornings, so while I was having a go at making meringue (it’s more marshmallow than it is meringue, but it still tastes good) because I had no idea what else to do with the 8 egg whites I had leftover from key lime pie and he was having his breakfast this morning, Urban Planner Housemate and I learned about marmalade.
Okay, what we learned was a little bit silly sometimes. According to the BBC, marmalade is a “testosterone-laden” flavour. Seriously, they said that. But they also got into the history of marmalade and where it came from and its rise in Britain and how its sales are declining in favour of things like peanut butter and chocolate spreads (read: Nutella).
Anyhow, the world marmalade comes from the Portuguese marmelada meaning quince. The Portuguese word, in turn, comes from the Greek word for quince, melimelon.
Marmalade is made from Seville oranges, which are a bitter orange not found naturally. Seville oranges are instead a hybrid of the mandarin and pomelo oranges, most likely developed in China about 4000 years ago. The Sevilles spread across India and then were taken by Arab traders to the Mediterranean, across north Africa and then into Spain. The Seville was popular in Europe as a flavour enhancer and for preserves until the sweet orange began to emerge at which point it suffered a decline in popularity, except in Britain where marmalade had become a staple. Britain eats 67,000,000 jars of marmalade a year and declining at 2.3% a year.*
Also — this was not in the programme, but I found in in my reading — at one time, the Brits used marmalade to fend off scurvy in sailors.**
*If you’re interested, you can listen to the whole programme here. You can also read more here. If you do decide to listen, notice that the volume control on the player goes to 11. That makes me laugh every time.