Native to Italy, tarocco blood oranges are one of the most popular orange varieties, not only for their characteristic ruby red blush but their superior sweetness and high vitamin C content.
The distinctive yet delicately flavoured citrus fruit originally hails from the southern Italian island of Sicily where they still grow on the fertile slopes of Mount Etna.
This sicilian blood orange with a difference is not only prized for its juicy sweetness, but the enticing ruby red flesh with a distinctive berry like taste- a phenomenon bought about by the release of natural red pigments (anthocyanins) produced during dramatic temperature fluctuation. Hence chilly winters are perfect for yielding the most colourful oranges.
Blood oranges are also an excellent source of vitamin C, as well as being rich in antioxidants and containing potassium, folate and dietary fiber.
The blood orange is a natural mutation of the orange, which is itself a hybrid, probably between the pomelo and the tangerine, Within Europe, the arancia rossa di Sicilia (red orange of Sicily) has Protected Geographical Status. In the Valencian Community, it was introduced in the second half of the 19th century.
The distinctive dark flesh color is due to the presence of anthocyanins, a family of polyphenol pigments common to many flowers and fruit, but uncommon in citrus fruits. Chrysanthemin (cyanidin 3-O-glucoside) is the main compound found in red oranges. The flesh develops its characteristic maroon color when the fruit develops with low temperatures during the night. Sometimes, dark coloring is seen on the exterior of the rind, as well, depending on the variety of blood orange. The skin can be tougher and harder to peel than that of other oranges. Blood oranges have a unique flavor compared to other oranges, being distinctly raspberry-like in addition to the usual citrus notes. The anthocyanin pigments of blood oranges begin accumulating in the vesicles at the edges of the segments, and at the blossom end of the fruit, and continue accumulating in cold storage after harvest.