All About Blood Oranges

  • 01 of 05

    Blood Orange Basics

    A single blood orange cut in half
    PJ Taylor/Getty Images

    Blood oranges are a rather gruesome name for a wonderfully sweet and beautifully colored citrus fruit.

    Blood oranges 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 look like regular oranges from the outside. The inside flesh of a blood orange is brilliantly dark pink, maroon, or even dark blood red. Along with their lovely red color, blood oranges tend to have a noticeable and delicious raspberry edge to their flavor.

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  • 02 of 05

    Why Blood Oranges Are Red

    Different blood orange slices
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    The red color in blood oranges is the result of anthocyanin, which develops when these citrus fruits ripen during warm days tempered with cooler nights.

    Anthocyanin is an antioxidant, and starts to develop along the edges of the peel and then follows the edges of the segments before moving into the flesh of the orange, 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.

    You can see in the slices of blood orange pictured above that some have taken on a reddish hue, but aren't nearly as dark and luscious looking as others. The redder ones do, as you might guess, have a more pronounced and deeper "blood orange" flavor.

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  • 03 of 05

    Where & When to Find Blood Oranges

    Farmers market blood oranges
    David Papazian/Getty Images

    Blood oranges they need a temperate climate with a hot season and cooler weather to bring out their true color. Thus, they flourish in the Mediterranean, where they likely originated, and in parts of California. It 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 most commonly available at farmers markets in areas where they're grown, or at specialty stores other places.

    As with all citrus, look for blood oranges that feel heavy for their size. While blood oranges with orange skins can be brilliantly red inside and redder blood oranges can have limited amounts of its distinctive color inside, anecdotal experience tells me that if you have a choice, choose blood oranges with darker, redder skins for a flesh that's more likely to match the name.

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  • 04 of 05

    Types of Blood Oranges

    Blood oranges, whole and cut
    madlyinlovewithlife/Getty Images

    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 Blood, which, despite its name, often isn't very red inside
    • Sanguinello, popular in Spain, which is a sweet orange with red streaks and few seeds
    • Tarocco, very sweet and easy to peel, but with unreliable red flesh

    Other varieties of blood orange 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.

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  • 05 of 05

    How to Use Blood Oranges

    Blood oranges on a salad
    Molly Watson

    Blood oranges are tasty to eat out of hand, but they tend to be tricky to peel and are thus 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.