The Blood Orange
The Blood Orange is a variety of orange with crimson, or blood red flesh. The distinctive dark flesh colour is due to the presence of anthocyanins, a family of antioxidant pigments common to many flowers and fruit, but uncommon in citrus fruits.
Traditionally, Sicily is the main exporter of blood oranges with a season that lasts from early February to the end of May. However, product is available from a variety of other sources from late November to early December. Essentially, a high variation in temperature is required between night and days in order to produce their distinctive colour. Three main varieties of blood orange are commercially grown in the Northern Hemisphere.
MORO (first available variety)
Originating in Sicily, the Moro is the least sweet of the three different varieties. The fruit has a deep red colour that can vary in darkness from a light flecking to an almost crimson colour. The flavour is relatively intense and bitter compared to other varieties and has a raspberry tang.
Native to Italy, this variety is often referred to as being ‘half blood’ since its flesh does not have the full colouration of other varieties. The Tarocco has a very high level of sweetness and is generally seedless. It is also easier to peel than other varieties. The fruit is reported to contain the highest Vitamin C content of any orange variety grown in the world.
Of Spanish origin and commercially grown in Sicily, the Sanguinello is generally the last of the three main varieties to appear. Normally available from the end of February to the end of May, the Sanguinello is generally considered to be the true blood orange. Its skin often has a high level of blush, few seeds and a sweet, tender flesh with many blood-coloured streaks.
Generally blood oranges are more bitter, but less acidic than standard navel oranges. The fruit is great for juicing, but can be used in many dishes including sauces, chutneys, compotes, sorbets, dressings, salsas, baking and of course, marmalade. The distinctive colour of the flesh lends itself well to salads and the fruit makes a great partner to strong flavours such as beetroot, fennel, red onion, feta and watercress. The fruit can also be used as an accompaniment to meats and poultry as well as smoked fish.
As well as being a great source of Vitamin C, the blood orange contains good levels of potassium, Vitamin A, iron, folate, calcium, and fibre. What’s more, the distinctive colour of the orange can be attributed to a pigment know as anthocyanin, which is also present in cherries, red cabbage and blueberries. Anthocyanin is a popular antioxidant which is reported to slow or prevent the growth of cancerous cells and reduce the signs of ageing.
Good quality blood oranges should be firm to the touch without soft spots, which can be a sign of age. The best fruit should feel
heavy for their size as this is the best sign of good juice content.
See some of our recipes that make great use of the Blood Orange, including:
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