Blood oranges are a rather gruesome name for a wonderfully sweet and beautifully colored citrus fruit. Blood oranges tend to be a bit smaller than regular oranges, with a thick, pitted skin that may or may not have a reddish blush but generally looks like a regular orange from the outside – until, that is, it is cut open. The inside flesh of a blood orange is brilliantly dark pink, maroon, or even dark blood red. Hence, as you might guess, their name. Along with their lovely red color, blood oranges tend to have a noticeable raspberry edge to their flavor.
Why Are Blood Oranges Red?
The red color in blood oranges is the result of anthocyanin, which develops when these citrus fruits ripen during warm days tempered with cooler nights. Anthocyanin is an antioxidant, and starts to develop along the edges of the peel and then follows the edges of the segments before moving into the flesh of the orange, so blood oranges can be lined or streaked with red instead of fully blood colored, depending on the season, when they were harvested, and their particular variety. (You can see the centers of the segments in the blood orange pictured above are starting to take on a reddish hue, but aren't nearly as dark and luscious looking as the edges.)
Where and When to Find Blood OrangesSince they need a temperate climate with a hot season and cooler weather to bring out their true color, blood oranges flourish in the Mediterranean (where they well may have originated) and in California. It is also why, like so many citrus fruits, blood oranges are harvested in winter. You're most likely to see them available for sale from December into April in the U.S. While most of the U.S. crop is grown in California, blood oranges are also grown in some number in Texas and Florida by specialty growers. As with all citrus, look for blood oranges that feel heavy for their size.
Types of Blood Oranges
There are several varieties of blood oranges, from the famed Sicilian red orange (grown only in Sicily) to the deeply colored and slightly bitter Moro, the quite sweet and easy-to-peel Tarocco to the sweet orange with red streaks Sanguinello. Other varieties of blood orange include Burris, Delfino, Khanpur, Red Valencia, Ruby Blood, Sanguina Doble Fina, Washington Sanguine, and Vaccaro.
How to Use Blood Oranges
Blood oranges are tasty to eat out of hand, but they tend to be tricky to peel and are thus prime candidates for cutting into "supremes" (see how to cut citrus sections here).
In general, blood oranges are sweeter than other oranges. Their juice is delicious, but because it is sweeter than classic orange juice, it ferments quickly and should be used or drunk the same day it is juiced.
Blood oranges can also be used to striking effect in Orange Marmalade.