What Are Jaffa Oranges?

Everything you need to know about the once-famous citrus fruit.

Full Frame Shot Of Oranges At Market Stall
Photo: Getty Images

The Jaffa orange is best known for being one of Queen Elizabeth I's favorite snacks. So what makes the sweet fruit so special that it's fit for a queen? Here's everything you need to know about the vibrant gems that are Jaffa oranges.

What Is a Jaffa Orange?

A Jaffa orange, also called a Shamouti orange, is a citrus fruit that is grown in Jaffa, Israel, hence its name. It's a unique type of orange because of its sweet taste, deep orange color, and thick peel. The orange itself is oval shaped and is nearly seedless.

The Jaffa orange dates back to the 19th century when it was traded during the Ottoman Empire's rule. Israel, which was part of Palestine at the time, was known for growing citrus fruits because of its moderate climate and fertile soil. They developed the Jaffa orange, which became a winner because it was easy to peel, almost seedless, and had a tough enough skin so that it could be exported worldwide.

History of Jaffa Oranges

Jaffa oranges have a history of ups and downs in the Middle East. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, they were the dominant orange, even making it to Queen Victoria's table. They become extremely popular in Europe and America where celebrities would pose with the special Jaffa oranges. The oranges even had a cake named after them, which is probably even more widely known, the Jaffa Cake.

But over time, the orange became the center of political battles. During the War of Independence, many Arab farmers fled Palestine and the orange became a symbol of forced exodus. The Jaffa orange industry later deteriorated in Palestine but was thriving in the newly formed State of Israel.

Cultivation of the Jaffa orange continued in Jaffa, but new varieties of oranges began gaining popularity. These oranges were easier to package and harvest, meaning the Jaffa orange fell by the wayside.

Today, Jaffa, the Israeli company behind Jaffa oranges, still harvests the famed orange, but it's no longer their number one export — instead, they're known for the Orri, or mandarin. You can still find Jaffa oranges in the U.S., but they're not as popular as navel or Valencia oranges.

What Do Jaffa Oranges Taste Like?

Jaffa oranges are described as having a "sweet fine taste." Though they are similar to Valencia oranges, they have a much sweeter flavor.

These oranges are slightly juicy, but not enough to produce quality orange juice.

When Are Jaffa Oranges In Season?

If you're able to find Jaffa oranges in stores, you should be able to find them all year round — especially if they're grown in the U.S., because they're harvested in the winter. They're in season between November and March, but because they're mostly imported from Israel, you can find true Jaffa oranges later into the spring months, sometimes until May.

Where to Buy Jaffa Oranges

Your best bet when looking for Jaffa oranges is to check your local grocery store. You may get lucky and find some because there are Jaffa oranges grown in the U.S., mostly in the West. However, Jaffa oranges aren't as popular in the U.S. as they are in other countries, like the U.K., where they're sold year-round in grocery stores.

How to Store Jaffa Oranges

Jaffa oranges can be stored for up to one week at room temperature. But to keep them fresh for longer, you can store them in the refrigerator.

How to Use Jaffa Oranges

Jaffa oranges are most commonly eaten out of hand, but you can also use them in most recipes that call for oranges. Try using Jaffa oranges in one of these citrusy recipes:


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