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Blood Oranges: Kitchen Basics

Orange blood orange1

The blood orange is a type of sweet orange that has red blush skin and a streaked to full scarlet, crimson, or purple flesh. It is juicy and has a sweet-tart taste that is rich, flavorful, and often hints of berry.

Blood oranges are sometimes called the connoisseur’s or gourmet’s citrus. That is because the flavor of blood oranges is distinctive and refreshing with rich overtones of raspberries and strawberries.

Blood oranges are popular for eating out of hand, juice, and garnishes. Blood-orange sections can enliven any fruit mixture or salad, and the blood orange can be used as a garnish for savory or sweet dishes.

Blood oranges range in size from small- to medium-sized, and their skin is usually pitted but can be smooth. They contain few to no seeds.

The red color of the blood orange is the result of a natural pigment called anthocyanin which is common to red fruits, flowers, and trees—but usually not oranges.

Light, temperature, and variety can affect the degree of crimson pigmentation of particular blood oranges. The rind coloration and the flesh coloration have different requirements. The flesh color of blood oranges is usually deeper in hotter regions.

Blood oranges are suited to regions with wide fluctuations between day and night temperatures. The fruit needs warm days for sugars to form and cool nights for color to develop. The color of the rind of a blood orange that has been shielded from the sun will be more intense than one that has been exposed to direct sun.

There are three notable varieties of blood oranges:

blood orange kitchen use
Blood oranges

Moro blood orange

Moro has a rich citrus flavor and a deep raspberry aftertaste. It is juicy but firm and has a seedless pulp. The Moro is a full-blood orange—meaning the flesh ranges from orange-veined with ruby coloration to vermilion to vivid crimson to nearly black. It is the most colorful of the blood oranges, and its flesh darkens as the season progresses.

The Moro is a small- to medium-sized citrus and its reddish-orange rind is thick with a medium-fine grain. It has few to no seeds and can be difficult to peel. The Moro is thought to have originated at the beginning of the nineteenth century in Sicily. It is ready for harvest from winter to early spring.

Sanguinelli blood orange

Sanguinelli shares several characteristics of the Moro but is smaller, more compact, and slightly oblong in shape. The flesh of the Sanguinelli is orange with multiple blood-colored streaks, and its rind can be yellow to bright cherry red. It has few to no seeds.

The Sanguinelli was discovered in Spain in 1929. It is a late full-blood orange that usually matures in mid-winter but can keep on the tree unspoiled until spring.

Tarocco blood orange

Tarocco has a balanced full sweet flavor with berry overtones. It is said to be sweeter and more flavorful than the Moro or Sanguinelli. It has a delicate pink to red-suffused flesh and a red juice. Because the Tarocco’s flesh is not as deeply colored as the Moro or Sanguinelli it is called a half-blood orange.

The Tarocco is seedless and has an orange rind with slightly blushed red tones. It is a medium-sized fruit and is easy to peel.

Tarocco is native to Italy and may have derived from the Sanguinelli. It is the most popular table orange in Italy and one of the most popular oranges in the world because of its sweetness and juiciness. The Tarocco has the highest vitamin C content of an orange.

It comes to harvest from early to mid-winter.

How to choose an orange

Select an orange that is firm and heavy for its size. A heavy orange will be a juicy orange. Avoid oranges that are spongy or have mold. Rough brown russeting on the rind of orange will not affect the flavor or quality. A slight greening of the orange rind will not affect the quality. An orange with a green tint to its rind can be ripe and ready to eat.

Store. Oranges will keep in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator for up to a month, or they will store in a cool, dark place in the kitchen for a week.

The botanical name of the blood orange is Citrus sinensis.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. Harvesttotable.com has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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  1. Thank you.. Just what I was looking for. Very informative and interesting. I love my blood oranges, and have seen prices in SoCal range from nearly $4. to as little as $.80 per pound. Unfortunately, I’ve been selecting dried out and over-ripe fruit lately, and needed this guidance.

  2. I planted a Moro tree in the ground, and I have had some concerns about the temperature affecting it. The first year I tried shielding it and all the leaves fell off. Last year I didn’t bother it and it responded great. Now my concerns were when to harvest, Your posting was very informative and has given me more insight. This is November so I just need to be mindful of frost and it can wait until December-January I think..

    • Protect your orange tree from frost and freezing as you wait for harvest. Next year, mark on the calendar when the tree sets fruits–and then you can count ahead and mark when the fruit should reach maturity on the calendar. If the tree is very productive, you can test a fruit every couple of weeks to know when the fruit has ripened and it’s time to harvest.

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