Paterson River Oranges are a sweet, seeded, eating oranges grown only in the Paterson area of the Hunter Valley, New South Wales. This ‘thorny’ orange tree, thought to have originated in China, India or South Africa, was first cultivated unsuccessfully in the Parramatta region of New South Wales. It was not until the 1820s that production moved north and the trees flourished in the rich alluvial river flat soil surrounding the Paterson River. The trees were often grown on small dairy farms where the farmers could supplement their income by producing oranges, while still tending their cattle. The fruit would be transported to the town of Paterson where it was either sold at the local market, or to the local packaging shed where, after the construction of a railway line in 1911, it was easily transported to Sydney and other towns around New South Wales. They remained a signature crop of the area until after World War ll when new ‘thornless’ varieties of orange became more popular with consumers, and farmers turned back to milk production.
Today one tree remains at the Paterson Museum. Its fruit is sold at a local shop and some of its seeds have been taken to private properties for home orchards. The continued production of the Paterson River Orange is important in maintaining local biodiversity and cultural heritage.