Blood oranges are a rather gruesome name for a wonderfully sweet and beautifully colored citrus fruit. 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 inside flesh is brilliantly dark pink, maroon, or even dark blood red. Blood oranges grow on citrus trees in warm, temperate climates. In the U.S., they are mostly grown in California and Florida and then shipped around the country. The fruit can be eaten as is, juiced, or used in baked goods, cocktails, salads, or other dishes that call for oranges.
Along with their lovely red color, blood oranges tend to have a noticeable and delicious raspberry edge to their flavor.
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What Is a Blood Orange?
A blood orange is a citrus fruit that looks similar to an orange from the outside but has deep red colored fruit and juice. 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.
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How to Use Blood Oranges
Blood oranges are tasty to eat out of hand. Because of their dramatic coloring, they are prime candidates for cutting into "supremes," or membrane-free citrus sections.
Blood oranges are sweeter than other oranges. Their juice is delicious, but because it is quite a bit sweeter than classic orange juice, it ferments quickly and should be used or drunk the same day it's juiced. Blood oranges can also be used to striking effect in orange marmalade or as a garnish on drinks.
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What Does It Taste Like?
Blood oranges may taste differently based on which variety you are sampling. They are less tangy than standard oranges and have more of a floral or tart flavor. Some varieties may taste like orange juice with added raspberry, cranberry, or fruit punch flavors. The mouthfeel of a blood orange is the same as a regular orange, but the segments have fewer seeds.
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Blood Orange Recipes
In addition to eating them out of hand, blood oranges are popular in baked goods and cocktails.Continue to 5 of 9 below.
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Where to Buy Blood Oranges
Blood oranges need a temperate climate with a hot season and cooler weather to bring out their true color. Thus, they flourish in the Mediterranean region, where they likely originated, and in parts of California and Florida. This is also why blood oranges are harvested in winter. You're most likely to see them available for sale from December into April in the U.S., although depending on the weather in a given year, that season may extend for a month on either end.
Blood oranges are commonly available at farmers' markets in areas where they're grown or at specialty stores elsewhere. They are typically sold loose, and you can buy as many as you like. Because they are rarer than navel oranges, blood oranges aren't typically sold pre-bagged or in bulk.
As with all citrus, look for blood oranges that feel heavy for their size. While the ones with orange skin can be brilliantly red inside, and redder ones can have a limited amount of red color inside, if you have a choice, choose blood oranges with darker, redder skins for a flesh that's more likely to match the name.
In the right climate (USDA Zones 9-10), blood oranges can be grown at home. Some trees will thrive in larger containers, and they can be brought indoors in cooler temperatures. The plants need full sun, moist soil, and a warm climate outdoors with temperatures of 60-85 degrees Fahrenheit or a constant average indoor temperature of 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
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There are several varieties of blood oranges; the most famous is the Sicilian red orange, which is grown only in Sicily. Other common varieties include:
- Moro, a deeply red-colored and slightly bitter orange.
- Ruby, which, despite its name, often isn't very red inside.
- Sanguinello, popular in Spain, is a sweet orange with red streaks and few seeds.
- Tarocco, very sweet and easy to peel, but with unreliable red flesh.
Other varieties include Burris, Delfino, Khanpur, Red Valencia, Sanguina Doble Fina, Washington Sanguine, and Vaccaro.
You won't often confront a choice at the market, so the marginal differences between the varietals aren't something to get hung up on, but it's good to know that some varieties are simply less likely to be all that red.Continue to 9 of 9 below.
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US Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central. Oranges, raw, Florida. Updated April 1, 2019.