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Blood oranges: What is the secret behind their color, and why do we love cooking with them?

Blood oranges: What is the secret behind their color, and why do we love cooking with them?

Everything you need to know about the juicy red citrus fruit

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Carolin Roitzheim

Carolin Roitzheim

Food Editor at Kitchen Stories

Hard to distinguish from their orange-colored cousins on the outside, a deep red secret lies beneath the skin of the blood orange. Its pretty, ruby-red flesh and berry-sweet taste make it a star among winter fruits.

Here you will learn everything you need to know about blood oranges:

– What are blood oranges?
We’re talking about appearance, taste, ripening, and development of the characteristic color.
– How healthy are blood oranges?
Which nutrients do they have and what are the benefits?
– Where do blood oranges come from?
– What varieties exist?
Including their differences from grapefruits and how to substitute blood oranges.
– When are blood oranges in season?
– How to find, store, and prepare the perfect blood orange.
– What goes well with blood oranges?
Including blood orange recipes.

What are blood oranges?

Blood orange is a member of the Rutaceae family, also known as citrus family. Its distinctive feature is the blood-red color of its flesh.

1. Appearance
What do blood oranges look like? When you look at them from the outside, they look similar to small oranges. Their peel may resemble the common variety orange, but sometimes you’ll see a slight reddish tint in some areas of the peel of the blood orange.
The fruit flesh inside has a ruby-red or even burgundy-red color.

2. Taste
What do blood oranges taste like? The taste can be essentially described as sweet-tart and berry-like – somewhere between an orange and a raspberry.
Also, their sweetness varies depending on the degree of coloration:
The darker the blood orange, the sweeter it tastes.

3. Ripening
How do blood oranges ripen? For an optimal ripening, large temperature differences between day and night are a must because this is the only way the color-producing plant substances, also known as anthocyanins, can develop.

4. Color
Why is the blood orange red? The anthocyanins are responsible for transforming the flesh of the blood orange from orange to red. The greater the difference in temperature, the darker the fruit flesh becomes.
These substances also exist in other reddish, bluish, or purple foods such as blueberries, eggplants, beets, and red cabbage.

How healthy are blood oranges?

Blood oranges are so much more than their fabulous taste and appearance.
They contain:

Vitamin C: Like most citrus fruits, they are full of the stuff. This makes them a fantastic remedy to fight off colds and other illnesses during cold winter months.

In addition, they also contain:

– Vitamin B
– Folic acid
– Minerals such as potassium and calcium

– Anthocyanins: These color-producing plant substances are believed to have antioxidant effects. Thus, they have anti-inflammatory properties and protect cells from aging and illness. (However, our bodies cannot absorb these substances super well, so the effect is limited.)

Also interesting: Although often peeled off, the white part of the peel (called mesocarp) is particularly rich in fiber and can also be eaten.

Where do blood oranges come from?

The main farming area is the Mediterranean, especially Sicily.
The Mediterranean region, with its mild daytime temperatures and cool nights, provides the optimal conditions and thus the ideal crop location for blood oranges.

What types of blood oranges are there?

Some of the most popular varieties of blood oranges are:

Tarocco Blood Orange: This Sicilian variety is considered particularly sweet and flavorful. Thanks to its thin skin and size, it has a lot of juicy flesh inside. It is also called the "half-blood orange" because its flesh is not as deeply red as the other varieties.

Sanguinello Blood Orange: A reddish skin and orange flesh lined with red stripes are the characteristics of this Spanish variety, which is now also grown in Sicily. Its taste is fruity-sweet and more acidic, making it popular for refreshing juices.

Moro Blood Orange: This small variety of orange is also from Sicily. Its popularity is due to the deep, wine-red color of its flesh. It also impresses with intense, juicy-sour flavors that are not very bitter, sometimes even reminiscent of raspberry notes. Due to its flavor and high juice content, it is perfect for juicing!

What is the difference between blood oranges and grapefruits?

Origin: While blood oranges originate from a variety of Mediterranean orange species, grapefruits were created through the crossbreeding of pomelo and orange.
Appearance: Visually, grapefruits are significantly larger than blood oranges, with a pale yellow to reddish-yellow peel and a pink, yellow, occasionally reddish fruit flesh inside.
Taste: The citrus fruits differ the most in taste. Grapefruits have a sour-bitter taste, while blood oranges taste noticeably sweeter, more berry-like, and slightly tart.

What is a good substitute for blood oranges?

Depending on what you need, you could go with one of these alternatives:

Regular oranges: A good option when color is not crucial. Their taste is similarly sweet but less berry-like and tart.

Navel oranges: Sweeter and less tart than blood oranges, particularly suitable when sweetness is desired.

Mandarins or clementines: Similar sweetness to blood oranges but smaller; ideal when you need something sweet and juicy.

Lemons or limes: A great alternative for that acidic kick, especially in small amounts, to control the acidity.

It's important to note that the substitute you choose may affect the final flavor profile. Therefore, you may need to adjust the quantity and the other ingredients for the desired taste.

When are blood oranges in season?

Blood oranges are in season from January to the end of March. During this time, you can find them both at the farmer’s market every week and in the fruit and vegetable section of your supermarket.

How to find the perfect blood orange?

When buying blood oranges, make sure that they have a firm and vibrant skin without any dents or wrinkles. It should give little to no yield when pressed.

How to properly store blood oranges?

When you store them in a dry and a cool spot, blood oranges can last up to 10 days, with the refrigerator being the best place for storage.
To prevent premature molding or loss of firmness, it is best to store them side by side rather than stacking them on top of each other.
Before consumption, make sure to take the fruits out of the cold in advance, as the aroma of blood oranges can best develop at room temperature.

How to prepare blood oranges properly?

How to segment an orange

How to segment an orange

  • 01:00 min.

Flesh: Before eating, simply cut and peel the skin of the blood orange as you would with a regular orange. After that, you can slice or separate the flesh and enjoy it as it is or use it in cakes and salads.

Juice: If you want the juice, halve the blood orange along and juice it using a citrus press.

Zest: With organic produce, you can absolutely use the aromatic peel by carefully removing it with a fine grater or a zester.

Blood orange recipes: What to cook with blood oranges?

Blood oranges are versatile. With their sweet and fruity flavor, they not only taste excellent on their own but are also perfectly suitable to be used in cake batters, compotes or jams, in savory salad dressings and marinades, and as a fruity companion to fish and meat.

What’s your favorite blood orange recipe? Share them in the comments and attach a photo of your best blood orange feat.

Beet, blood orange, and burrata salad

Beet, blood orange, and burrata salad

Blood orange upside-down cake with thyme

Blood orange upside-down cake with thyme

Blood orange-glazed salmon

Blood orange-glazed salmon

Fennel salad with blood oranges

Fennel salad with blood oranges

Blood orange roasted chicken with polenta

Blood orange roasted chicken with polenta

This article has been edited by us to give you an even better reading experience (March 2024).

Published on February 11, 2018

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