During the late winter and early spring months, a special type of citrus begins showing up in the grocer’s aisle. While on the outside they may look like a regular orange with just a hint of blush, but once they are sliced open Blood Oranges reveal their true nature.
The red color of the blood orange comes from the powerful antioxidant anthocyanin, which also creates the red pigments in cherries and the apple skins. So eating blood oranges will give you all the great benefits of regular oranges such as vitamin C, potassium, calcium, and fiber with the added bonus of providing extra antioxidants.
Of the many varieties of blood oranges, the most popular are the Moro, Sanguinello and Tarocco. The Moro, which originated in Italy, has the deepest red pigment but tends to be more tart than the other varieties. The Spanish Sanguinello fruits later in the season than other blood oranges, and has sweeter, more tender flesh. Although lighter in color than the other two, the Tarocco’s sweet, full flavor makes it one of the the most prized blood orange in Italy.
Oranges originated in Southeast Asia and due to their excellent nutritional values and great ability to travel have been cultivated throughout China, India, east Africa, and the Mediterranean.
Blood oranges may have evolved independently in both China and the Mediterranean.
The strong Arab presence during the ninth and tenth centuries promoted the cultivation of oranges throughout the Mediterranean.
Oranges were, also, an important commodity of the Roman Empire.
Two specific gene mutations are responsible for turning regular orange trees into blood oranges. Most oranges only contain one of the genes necessary to create the red pigment.
California, Texas, and Florida are the main producers of blood oranges in the United States. The most colorful oranges come from areas that have hot days and cold nights. That is because large fluctuations in daily temperatures enhance the formation of the red pigment in the oranges. Due to their warmer nights, blood oranges from Florida tend to be less red.
A woman in California phoned the police claiming that her neighbors had somehow tainted her Valencia oranges with blood. After scientific investigation, it turned out that her orange tree had experienced a mutation that caused some of the oranges to express the red anthocyanin pigments.
Blood Orange Italian Soda
This recipe is a bit of a twist on the Blood Orange Italian Sodas you may have seen cropping up at your favorite grocery store. Fresh herbs add a delicate aroma while dried herbs will add a bolder flavor. The savory notes of the basil and thyme pair nicely with the sweetness of the blood orange. Plus the natural fizz can’t be beat!
- juice of ½ a blood orange
- 3-4 basil leaves - basil is a good source of calcium, magnesium and iron
- 1 sprig of thyme – strong antibacterial properties, also helps rid the body of phlegm
Rock the Casbah
The scents and smells of the spice bazaar are close at hand in this flavor. Clove and ginger add an exotic bite. For additional spice try using black peppercorn, cinnamon or cardamom. Mix with tequila to create a unique margarita.
- juice of ½ a blood orange
- ½ tsp of ginger – anti-inflammatory, aids in digestion, and has warming properties
- ½ tsp of clove – this dried flower bud has long been used to freshen breath and helps with toothaches