The blood orange is a variety of orange with crimson, almost blood-colored flesh.
It is a natural mutation of the orange, which is itself a hybrid, probably between the pomelo and the tangerine.
They tend to be a bit smaller than other types of oranges, with a thick, pitted skin that may or may not have a reddish blush, but they look like regular oranges from the outside.
The red color is the result of anthocyanin, which develops when these citrus fruits ripen during warm days tempered with cooler nights.
Anthocyanin, the pigment that gives the red color to blood oranges, starts to develop along the edges of the peel and then follows the edges of the segments before moving into the flesh. So blood oranges can be lined or streaked with red instead of fully blood-colored, depending on the season, when they were harvested, and their particular variety.
Blood oranges tend to be easier to peel than other oranges, often have fewer seeds, and have a sweeter taste. Their season is typically from December through April, so they can be harder to find and more expensive than naval or other common oranges.
The three most common types of blood oranges are the ‘Sanguinello’ (native to Spain), the ‘Tarocco’ (native to Italy) and the ‘Moro’, the newest variety of the three.
The ‘Sanguinello’ also called ‘Sanguinelli’ in the US discovered in Spain in 1929, has a reddish skin, few seeds, and a sweet and tender flesh. ‘Sanguinello’, the Sicilian late “full-blood” orange, is close in characteristics to the ‘Moro’.
The name ‘Tarocco’ is thought to be derived from an exclamation of wonder expressed by the farmer who was shown this fruit by its discoverer. It is a medium-sized fruit and is perhaps the sweetest and most flavorful of the three types. The most popular table orange in Italy, it is thought to have derived from a mutation of the ‘Sanguinello’.
The ‘Moro’ is the most colorful of the blood oranges, with a deep red flesh and a rind with a bright red blush. The flavor is stronger and the aroma is more intense than a normal orange. This fruit has a distinct, sweet flavor with a hint of raspberry.
Other less-common types include ‘Maltese’, ‘Khanpur’, ‘Washington Sanguine’, ‘Ruby Blood’, ‘Sanguina Doble Fina’, ‘Delfino’, ‘Red Valencia’, ‘Burris Blood Valencia’, ‘Vaccaro’, ‘Sanguine grosse ronde’, ‘Entre Fina’, and ‘Sanguinello a pignu’. The ‘Maltese’ is known to be the sweetest.
While also pigmented, Cara cara navels and Vainiglia sanguignos have pigmentation based on lycopene, not anthocyanins as blood oranges do.
Originally from China, where it has been cultivated for millennia, like so many other citrus fruits, it was brought to Europe by Portuguese and Arab traders in the 15th Century. The first-known varieties were bitter in taste and were above all used in cooking, in particular to give a zest to game birds or wild fowl, such as pigeons, partridges, pheasants, ducks, etc.
The sweet orange, which was exported to the West later, is today one of the most consumed winter fruit in the world.
Lucky for us, blood oranges are as nutritious as they are delicious. Here are some of the fruit’s nutritional highlights:
• High in antioxidants: Anthocyanin, the pigment that gives the blood orange its maroon hue, is a type of antioxidant that may help your body fight cancer.
• Immune-boosting: Blood oranges are also chock-full of vitamin C, which boosts your immune system and supports healthy blood vessels.
• Can promote weight loss: High in fiber but low in calories, the blood orange can help promote weight loss by keeping you fuller for longer.
Store blood oranges on the counter for up to a week at room temperature. You can store them for longer in the refrigerator.
Blood oranges can also be used to create marmalade, and the zest can be used for baking.
One of the most famous ways to uses for this distinctive orange is Sicilian Winter Salad. It combines sliced blood orange, sliced red onion and/or fennel and olives, dressed in olive oil. There are several ways to vary the salad. Try this one — Sicilian Blood Orange, Fennel, Red Onion, and Mint Salad.
Also, in flat or sparkling water add a few slices of blood orange to cold filtered water or sparkling water for a subtle citrus flavor and visual treat.