Why are blood oranges red – or are they?
The time of year has arrived for the supply of this wonderful fruit. It is available for organic wholesale supply from January through to April. The distinctive red colouring of blood oranges is due to the presence of naturally occurring pigments called anthocyanins. Raspberries, blueberries and black rice are amongst the most common foods where we find anthocyanins . They are very common to many flowers and fruits but just not in citrus. The flesh develops the red colouring when the fruits are subject to low night time temperatures. This is the same way that the skin of lemons turn from green to yellow. For this reason early season blood oranges can have quite low colouring although they are still technically blood oranges.
There are three main varieties of bloods, Moro, Tarocco and Sanguinello.
The ‘Moro’ is the most colourful of the blood oranges. It has a deep red flesh and a skin with a bright red blush. The flavour and the aroma is stronger than a normal orange. This fruit has a distinct, sweet flavour with a hint of raspberry. The ‘Moro’ variety is believed to have originated at the beginning of the 19th century. Most likely in the citrus-growing area around Lentini, south of Catania and Mount Etna in Sicily.
The name ‘Tarocco’ is thought to be derived from an exclamation of wonder expressed by the a farmer when he was first shown this fruit. It is perhaps the sweetest and most flavourful of the three varieties of Bloods and is the most popular table orange in Italy. It is thought to have derived from a mutation of the ‘Sanguinello’. It is referred to as “half-blood”, because the flesh is not as red in pigmentation as the ‘Moro’ and ‘Sanguinello’ varieties. The ‘Tarocco’ is one of the world’s most popular oranges because of its sweetness and 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.
The ‘Sanguinello’ was 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’. Where it is grown in Europe, Spain & Sicily, it matures in February, but can remain on trees unharvested until April and the fruit can last until the end of May.