The bitter orange harvest from A to Z!

Publication date: 25/01/2024
It’s an old Monegasque tradition that has been revived in recent years, with bitter oranges harvested in the streets of the Principality every January and February.

Over the decades, Monaco has constantly changed while artfully preserving those unique things that make up its DNA. And one of them is the bitter orange harvest!

A historically agricultural land, Monaco was once covered with citrus trees, and locals used the fruit as a form of currency, trading them for rum brought by passing merchant ships.

Since then, Monaco has grown and the orange trees are still there, witnesses to the country’s long past. Today, there are still more than 1,000 citrus trees flourishing in the Principality’s streets, mostly concentrated in the Condamine, Moneghetti, and Monte-Carlo districts.
Every year, in January and February, the gardeners of the Department of Urban Amenities prune them and collect their precious fruits

On rue Grimaldi alone, it takes ten people a week to gather a tonne and a half of oranges. As in previous years, anyone wanting to use the oranges to make their own marmalade can simply approach the gardeners and ask.

But the vast majority of the fruit is passed on to various Monegasque organisations. While the Lycée Rainier III is among the lucky recipients, using them to make jam and fruit pastes, most of the oranges find their way to the Distillerie de Monaco. Using traditional methods and selecting only the very finest local ingredients, the country’s only distillery makes an exclusive range of liqueurs, spirits, and eaux de vie.

Since it was founded several years ago by Philip Culazzo, the company has provided an intelligent way to make use of the precious fruit, much of which was previously wasted. “Instead of seeing them taken off to the garbage dump, these untreated fruits are collected to make fine liqueurs”. The collaboration between the distillery and the Department of Urban Amenities has certainly borne fruit (pun intended), as the proportion of produce thrown away has been cut from 90% to... zero.

In their production facility, where the alembic used to distil the good stuff is housed, Philip Culazzo and his staff take delivery of around 500 kg of bitter oranges each day. The company then handles the rest of the process, from maceration, to bottling, and sale. The products are 100% made in Monaco, using local expertise and, increasingly, environmentally sustainable methods.

The short supply chain keeps waste to a minimum and is popular with the people of the Principality. The Distillerie de Monaco is now looking to expand with new premises in the Fontvieille district that will enable it to treble its production capacity to 600,000 bottles a year.

If you’d like to collect some bitter oranges, the staff of the Department of Urban Amenities will be harvesting the fruit in the following locations over the next few weeks:
- Condamine district: rue Princesse Caroline from 29 January to 10 February
- Monte-Carlo district: boulevard d’Italie from 29 January to 2 February 

Photo credits: ©Direction du Tourisme et des Congrès