The blood orange is a variety of orange (Citrus sinensis) with crimson, blood-colored flesh. The fruit is smaller than an average orange; its skin is usually pitted, but can be smooth. The distinctive dark flesh color is due to the presence of anthocyanin, a pigment common to many flowers and fruit, but uncommon in citrus fruits. Sometimes there is dark coloring on the exterior of the rind as well, depending on the variety of blood orange. The degree of coloration depends on light, temperature and variety.
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The three most common types of blood oranges are: the Tarocco (native to Italy), the Sanguinello (native to Spain), and the Moro, the newest variety of the three. The other less common types include Khanpur, Washington Sanguine, Ruby Blood, Sanguina Doble Fina, Delfino, Red Valencia, Burris blood Valencia orange, Vaccaro blood orange, Sanguine grosse ronde, Entre Fina blood orange and Sanguinello a pignu. Vainiglia Sanguigno and Cara Cara can be considered in the same category when these are all grouped together as pigmented oranges. Cara Cara or Pink Navel and the Vainiglia Sanguigno's pigmentations are based on lycopene instead of anthocyanins of the true blood oranges.
The Moro, a recent addition to the blood orange family, is the most colorful of the three types, with a deep purple flesh and reddish orange rind. The flavor is stronger and the aroma is more intense than a normal orange. This fruit has a distinct, sweet flavour with a hint of raspberry particular to blood oranges. The Moro variety is believed to have originated at the beginning of the 19th century in the citrus-growing area around Lentini (in the Province of Siracusa in Sicily) as a bud mutation of the "Sanguigno". Moro are "full-blood" oranges, meaning that the flesh ranges from orange-veined with ruby coloration, to vermilion, to vivid crimson, and nearly to black. The thick orange-colored peel has a medium fine grain with spots or red wine veins.
The Tarocco is a medium-sized fruit and is perhaps the sweetest and most flavorful of the three types. The most popular table orange in Italy, the Tarocco is thought to have derived from a mutation of the "Sanguinello". It is referred to as "half-blood", because the flesh is not accentuated in red pigmentation as much as with the Moro and Sanguinello varieties. It has thin orange skin, slightly blushed in red tones. The Tarocco is one of the world's most popular oranges because of its sweetness (Brix to acid ratio is generally above 12.0) and juiciness. It has the highest Vitamin C content of any orange variety grown in the world, mainly on account of the fertile soil surrounding Mount Etna, and it is easy to peel. The Tarocco orange is seedless, and it contains anthocyanins, as do other blood oranges. 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. The University of California, Riverside Citrus Variety Collection has delineated three subcultivars of Tarocco: The Bream Tarocco which was originally donated by Robert Bream of Lindsay, California, is of medium to large fruit with few to no seeds; Tarocco #7 or CRC 3596 Tarocco which is one of the most delicious blood orange varieties in the entire Citrus Variety Collection but the rind of this blood orange has very little to no coloration at all, vigorous tree but only moderately productive; and the Thermal Tarocco which was donated by A. Newcomb of Thermal Plaza Nursery in Thermal, California.
The Sanguinello (saŋgwɪˈnɛllo), also called Sanguinelli in the US (its Sicilian common name), 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. It matures in February, but can remain on trees unharvested until April. Fruit can last until the end of May. The peel is compact, and clear yellow with a red tinge. The flesh is orange with multiple blood-colored streaks.
History and background
Citrus fruits have been cultivated in Sicily for some time and cultivation has been documented since the time of Moorish rule. While Arabs are credited with originally planting lemons and bitter oranges in Sicily, the Genovese and Portuguese crusaders introduced the sweet variety, Portogallo, in the 15th century.
As the fruit's health-benefiting properties became known, Sicily began shipping oranges around the world. Today, Sicilian citrus is found in virtually every country that permits imports. Blood oranges cultivated in the United States are in season from December to March (Texas), and from November to May (California). While the tree will grow and bear fruit in Florida, the "Mediterranean" temperature variation between day and night seems to be necessary to develop the distinctive red color – blood oranges grown in Florida often have little to no red pigmentation.
Blood oranges, like all citrus fruits, are a good source of vitamin C. One medium-sized orange contains 260 milligrams of potassium, 15 percent of the FDA's daily recommendation. The fruit's red pigment, anthocyanin, is an antioxidant that reduces the risks associated with many ailments, including age-related illnesses.
Blood orange juice is tart. It can be used as a cocktail ingredient. The oranges can also be used to create marmalade, and the zest can be used for baking. A popular Sicilian winter salad is made with sliced Tarocco oranges, sliced bulb fennel, parsley and olive oil. The oranges have also been used to create gelato, sorbet and Italian soda. Blood oranges are also popular in vinaigrette-style dressings, and are sometimes used to flavour niche-market beer.
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- Antonio Saltini, I cento volti di Trinacria. Viaggio fotografico nella Sicilia agricola, Ismea - Spazio rurale, Rome 2004