The thing that makes winter so bearable for me is the seasonal appearance of blood oranges at the market. Despite their ominous name, they really are a beautiful and delicious fruit!
They are not available year round because they rely on certain kinds of weather to develop their stunning red color. They are generally available from November through May, depending on where you live and what variety you are buying. But they are definitely worth the wait!
SO WHAT IS A BLOOD ORANGE ANYWAY?
Blood oranges, which tend to be smaller than other types of oranges, are a natural mutation of the orange. They distinctively have a maroon or “blood” colored flesh. Yet the color may vary from dark pink to maroon to blood red. Or they may just be lined or streaked with red. I once cut into a blood orange that almost looked like tiger stripes. They may also have a red or purple blush on the rind.
It is said that the skin may be tougher to peel. But I have never found that to be the case. Some may be tart, some may be sweet, some may be a little of both. Some have even described the flavor as “raspberry-like”. And the thing I love about them is that they generally have fewer seeds. As you can see here, as you start to peel your orange, there is nothing unusual at first.
The dark flesh color is due to the presence of an antioxidant pigment called anthocyanin. These will only develop in areas where the temperatures are cold at night and warm during the day. They need the cold nights to develop the anthocyanins which are responsible for the distinct red color. They rely on the warm days to develop high enough sugar content for a sweet taste. So it is thought that they originated in the Mediterranean. However, most of the U.S. crop is grown in California, Florida and Texas; and harvested in the winter.
Anthocyanin is in a class of plant colorants responsible for red, purple and blue hues in many fruits. It is not typically found in citrus fruits. But it is found in everything from red flowers to cherries and to other red fruits. Anthocyanin may be beneficial in preventing cancer, heart disease and eye disorders.
VARIETIES OF BLOOD ORANGES
The 3 most common types of blood oranges are Tarocco (native to Italy), Sanguinello (native to Spain), and Moro (the newest variety more commonly found in the U.S.). Here I’ve been featuring Moro oranges which have a deep red flesh, and patches of blush on the rind.
THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF BLOOD ORANGES
Due to it’s pigments, blood oranges contain greater amounts of antioxidants than other oranges. They are, of course, a great source of Vitamin C. And they are a rich source of fiber. Don’t be so fussy in peeling all of the white pith off the orange, as this is a good source of the fiber. One medium size orange provides 28% of the recommended intake of fiber. They are also a good source of a small amount of protein as well as potassium. And what a great snack they are at roughly 80 calories an orange.
TIPS FOR BUYING AND STORING BLOOD ORANGES
- Buy blood oranges that are heavy for their size and firm to the touch.
- Some may have a red or purple blush on the skin. Others may be completely orange. You can buy either since that has nothing to do with the color of the internal flesh.
- Pass over any with soft or spongy spots on the rind.
- Look for a sweet, clean fragrance.
- Because they are generally sweeter than other oranges they will ferment more quickly. So any oranges that are juiced should be used the same day.
- You may store oranges at cool room temperature for 1 week; or for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
So what can you do with your blood oranges now? Here are a few or my favorite recipes!
You know, the thing that makes each season so special is that you may only have certain fruits and vegetables for a limited time. So be sure to enjoy some blood oranges before the winter is gone.