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Why Are Blood Oranges Red?

Also known as red oranges, blood oranges are flavorful and attractive citrus fruits. They are smaller than other orange varieties and have thick skin. The skin may have red blush, but they look like regular oranges more often than not.

These oranges thrive in warm, temperate climates. In the United States, they grow in parts of Florida and California. Producers ship them throughout the country when they are in season.

Blood oranges have a unique flavor that has hints of raspberry. They are also quite versatile since you can eat them as they are, add them to various dishes like salads, juice, or use them as a substitute for regular oranges.

Usually, the flesh of blood oranges is dark red, maroon, or dark pink. So what makes them red?

Blood oranges are red because they have anthocyanins, which are antioxidants that give some fruits and vegetables their red color. The flesh of blood oranges becomes red when the fruits ripen during warm days mitigated with cold nights.

This article discusses blood oranges in detail. We will look at the varieties, flavor, where to buy them, choosing the best blood oranges, storage, uses, and nutritional benefits. Additionally, we will discuss why their flesh is red.

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Blood orange varieties

There are three main blood-orange varieties; Moro, Sanguinello, and Tarocco.

Moro

Moro is the most common blood orange variety in the United States. The flesh of this variety is redder than the others, making it the most colorful. Additionally, Moro blood oranges ripen faster than the others. 

In terms of flavor, these blood oranges have a unique, sweet taste with raspberry hints.

It would be best not to store these blood oranges for too long as their flavor becomes unpleasant. For this reason, I suggest you only buy them when they are in season. Don’t buy them after March. 

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Sanguinello

Sanguinello blood oranges originate from Spain. Their skins are usually orange in color with deep red spots. Sometimes, the spots may be blush.

Usually, the flesh of Sanguinello is tender and orange with streaks that are burgundy or brown.

Tarocco

Tarocco is arguably the sweetest blood orange variety among the three. It originates from Italy, and its flesh is light red. 

This variety has a distinct, sweet flavor and is usually in season until early May. 

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The flavor

The flavor of blood oranges varies depending on the variety of blood oranges you buy. Generally, blood oranges have a tart and floral flavor. Compared to regular oranges, they are less tangy.

Some varieties taste like fruit punch flavors, while others taste like a mix of orange juice, cranberry, and raspberry. 

The texture of blood oranges is similar to that of standard oranges, but they have fewer seeds in comparison.

Why are they red?

Blood oranges are red because they contain anthocyanins, antioxidants that give fruits and vegetables a deep red color. Anthocyanins are also present in flowers, black rice, blueberries, and raspberries.

Blood oranges get their red color when farmers subject them to low temperatures at night.

Blood oranges that aren’t subjected to low temperatures have a light red color. 

Blood orange season

Usually, blood oranges are in season in winter and early spring, i.e., between December and April.

Like other citrus fruits, blood oranges ripen after farmers harvest them from trees. Therefore, they don’t become more flavorful as they ripen.

While it seems like a disadvantage, it is also an advantage since they store better. If they matured after being harvested, their quality would decline faster.

Where to buy blood oranges

Blood oranges flourish in temperate climates with cold weather and a hot season. Therefore, they are primarily grown in the Mediterranean region, parts of Florida, and California. 

You can buy blood oranges at any farmers’ market near you. You may also get them in specialty stores. 

Since blood oranges are rarer than other orange varieties, most distributors don’t sell them in bulk. They sell them individually, but you can buy as many as you want. 

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Choosing the best blood oranges

Always choose blood oranges that feel a little bit heavy for their size. They are much juicier than the lighter ones.

When picking the oranges, choose those with redder, darker skin. More often than not, their flesh will be deep red. Blood oranges with orange skin may have a lighter red color in comparison. 

How to store blood oranges

Blood oranges have thick skin that protects them from factors that lead to mold growth and rot.

Since they don’t continue ripening after harvesting, you can store them for an extended time. Here is how to store blood oranges in various forms.

· Whole blood oranges– store them on your kitchen counter for approximately one week. Alternatively, you can keep them in your refrigerator for up to two weeks.

· Blood orange zest– the zest loses its pungency when you store it in your fridge or kitchen countertop. Therefore, it would be best to freeze them. It will last for several months when frozen.

· Cut blood oranges– use a plastic wrap to cover the exposed flesh, then store it in your refrigerator. It will last for a few days.

· Blood orange juice- transfer the juice to a sealed jar and store it in your refrigerator. You can also freeze the juice if you want it to last longer.

· Blood orange segments- place the pieces in an airtight container and store the container in your fridge. It will remain fresh for a few days. 

Blood orange uses

Blood oranges have several uses. You can eat them out of hand, add them to your cocktails, and use them in baked goods. Their striking red color also makes them a great addition to salads. 

You can also pair blood oranges with meat, make marmalade or jam, or juice them.

How to cut and zest blood oranges

Like most citrus fruits, blood oranges usually have a coating on their skin. The FDA-approved coating is a thin layer of wax whose sole purpose is to help the fruit retain its moisture.

You must remove the wax before cutting the orange. Use a stiff vegetable brush to remove the wax and clean the orange using hot, running water. The orange will be ready to use once you have completed this critical step.

Only zest the oranges’ colored skin and stop immediately you get to the white part. The white part is usually bitter and would affect your zest’s general flavor.

Nutritional benefits of blood oranges

Blood oranges have several nutritional benefits. They contain vitamin C, minerals, antioxidants, and other minerals.

The antioxidants reduce cell damage, while vitamin C promotes healing by supporting healthy muscles and blood vessels. Vitamin C may also help lower cholesterol levels. 

Blood oranges have more antioxidants compared to other orange varieties. Additionally, they only contain 10% sugar by weight.

Conclusion

Blood oranges are unique, flavorful, and nutritious fruits with red flesh. The red color is due to the presence of anthocyanins. 

My favorite thing about blood oranges is how versatile they are. You can juice them, use them in salads, desserts, cocktails, and even meat dishes. They are also tasty and enhance the flavor of dishes they are added to.

Use the tip we shared above to get your money’s worth the next time you’re shopping for blood oranges.

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