12 Things You Need to Know About Blood Oranges

Photo of blood orangesMagryt_Artur /Depositphotos

Blood oranges make a great addition to any home cook’s pantry. They are easy to peel, ready-to-go for breakfast, and can be used in savory dishes as well as sweet.

This post will tell you what makes them so special and why they should be on your shopping list when in season.

How they look:

Blood oranges are a citrus fruit that looks like a typical orange but have an irregular, deep-red pattern on the skin—and come with dark-red, almost blood-colored flesh and juice.

How they taste:

Blood oranges have a less acidic, somewhat sweeter, more pronounced flavor compared to regular oranges. They taste like tangy red grapefruit with hints of honey, tart cherry, raspberry, and strawberry.

How they smell:

Blood oranges have a plentiful, honeyed, and uplifting citrus scent with a subtle touch of floral thyme and a soft berry undertone. Apart from being a favorite of foodies and gourmands like you and me, it’s highly sought-after in the fragrance community.

Why they’re so good:

Their captivating looks, tarty-sweet taste, and astonishing fragrance is what turns them into a “bloody delicious” ingredient for adding to galettes, tarts, cake, fruit salads, frozen yogurt, ice cream, and cocktails. You can also add them to salad dressings, meat marinades, and sauces for poultry or seafood. Or eat them straight from the peel!

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Are Blood Oranges Good For You?

They smell fantastic and taste great. But are they healthy?

Blood oranges are rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Calcium, dietary fiber, as well as anthocyanins, the pigments that give them an unmistakable deep-red color and that act as powerful antioxidants for your body.

They are a naturally occurring mutation of oranges that hasn’t been genetically modified. As confirmed by a number of studies conducted over the years, they are considered to be generally good for your health.

According to WebMD, the health benefits blood oranges can contribute to your body’s ability to ward off free radicals, regulate cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of strokes.

Blood Orange Varieties

The three most common blood orange varieties are the bitter Moro (or “Morro”), the sweet and tarty Tarocco, and the plump and juicy Sanguinello (also known by its plural form “Sanguinelli”).

Moro

Most common in North America

With bright red rind on the outside and ruby red flesh on the inside, Moro is the most colorful of all blood orange varieties.

Thick-skinned, almost seedless, bitter, and not that sweet, this variety is almost always a good choice, but definitely not as good as the sweet Tarocco or reddish Sanguinello.

Sanguinello

Mostly prevalent in Europe

Sanguinello is a blood orange variety that originates from Spain in the 1920s. It’s less common than Moro in the United States and mainly carried by well-stocked grocery stores.

The fruits are petite and irregular-shaped. They have reddish skin, few-to-no seeds, and a sweet, tender, very juicy flesh that’s perfect for squeezing for fresh orange juice.

Tarocco

Plumpest and juiciest

Traditionally, Tarocco oranges are grown in the nutrient-rich volcanic soil of Sicily’s active volcano, Mount Etna. They’re more popular in Europe and harder to find in the United States.

Tarocco is the sweetest and most flavorful blood orange variety, which makes it ideal for eating straight from the peel, tossed into fruit salad, or sliced as garnishing for chicken and fish fillets.

It has a plain-orange skin that’s less flashy compared to Moro or Sanguinello. But it’s easy to peel—and doing so reveals a flesh with a characteristic ruby-red blush to it and a pleasantly sweet taste.

Tarocco also contains 77 mg of Vitamin C per serving of 100 grams, the most of any other orange variety in the world and 121% of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s recommended daily value.

How Much Do Blood Oranges Cost?

What’s the price of blood oranges? To give you a helpful answer, I checked today’s prices at Kroger and Walmart, two of the most popular U.S. retailers that carry them, and calculated their averages.

Here’s what I found out:

On average, blood oranges cost $1.40/lb compared to $1.25/lb for juicing oranges and $1.3/lb for navel oranges. They are in season and cheapest from December to April, though the exact months will vary with the variety you’re buying and the country it grew in.

Blood oranges are 10-15% more expensive than their counterparts because they have a shorter growing season. Since they require specific weather conditions, they can only be cultivated in a small number of geographical areas, which also adds to the retail price.

How to Choose Blood Oranges at the Store

It’s that time of year again! Blood oranges are in season, and you want to know how to pick the best ones in the produce section at the grocery store.

What traits should you look for?

When choosing blood oranges at the grocery store, look for bright-orange fruit with a light purple blemish. Select the heaviest for their size, a sign of juiciness, and firm to the touch, which tells you that they’re still lively.

If a blood orange smells off and moldy or feels mushy and overly soft to the touch, discard it. It’s probably started to rot on the inside—and you’d probably have to throw it in the bin as soon as you’ve unpacked your grocery bags.

How to Store Blood Oranges at Home

You don’t need to refrigerate blood oranges, but, as with most other fruit, doing so can keep them fresh twice as long than when left out.

Blood oranges have thick peels, which gives them a longer shelf life. Left out at room temperature, they’ll typically last for one week. Stored in the crisper drawer of your fridge, they’ll stay good for a couple of weeks.

Blood oranges can be frozen for long-term storage of up to 1 year. To freeze blood oranges, remove the peel, slice the fruit into quarters, and transfer it to an airtight Ziploc bag or food storage container.

Thawing frozen blood oranges is easy: simply transfer them to your fridge the night before you plan to eat or cook with them. If the fruit was frozen in a bag, place it in a bowl to catch any juices that might drip down from it as it thaws.

Where Do Blood Oranges Come From?

Blood oranges are native to the Mediterranean seacoast of Southern Europe, where they have been grown since the 18th century. They are a natural mutation of the regular orange, first cultivated on the Italian isle of Sicily.

The dark-red pigments called anthocyanins, which give blood oranges their distinct color, only form when the temperatures are low at night—a weather condition common to fall and winter on the Mediterranean.

Anthocyanins can also be found in strawberries, berries, and grapes, as well as red cabbage and red radish.

Where Are Blood Oranges Grown?

Blood oranges are grown in areas with hot, dry summers and chilly, wet winters all over the world.

The top producers of blood oranges are, in descending order, Brazil, China, and India, with an annual production of, respectively, 17 million, 8.5 million, and 7.5 million tons of the fruit. They are followed by Iran, Turkey, and Egypt.

This sweet and tart citrus fruit is also domestically grown in the states of California, Texas, and Florida in the United States.

Do Blood Oranges Have Seeds?

Yes, blood oranges have seeds, even if fewer than most other orange varieties out there. The seeds are generally safe to eat, though some people prefer to pry them out with a small knife.

Blood orange seeds can be planted and the trees that grow out of them will produce fruit, but—rather counterintuitively—the fruit will not be blood oranges.

The only way to achieve this, as explained by the LSU’s Agro Center, is by grafting.

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