What Are Blood Oranges?

Blood oranges have red pulp and flesh.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 21 September 2014
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The blood orange is perhaps one of the most surprising citrus fruits. While the average orange is sliced to reveal orange flesh of dark to light color, people slicing or peeling a blood orange — which is a mutated standard orange — may be at first shocked to find the flesh of the fruit a deep, sanguine or bloody red color. Such crimson depths reveal remarkable sweetness, and blood oranges, which may be available just a little earlier in the season than traditional oranges, are prized for their juiciness, robust flavor, and outstanding color.

Long known to the Europeans, especially in Spain and Italy, knowledge of blood oranges is fairly new in places like the Americas. There are some sunny locales in the US where this orange is now commercially grown, but most often, stock is still delivered from Europe. There are some variant species of blood oranges, and the most famous of these are the Sanguinello, Moro and Tarocco. All three are considered good in flavor, but may have their own characteristics; for example the Moro is thought reddest while the Tarocco may have the most flavor.


No matter which blood oranges people find available, usually in the Western Hemisphere in about February, certain features characterize these oranges. In addition to sanguine flesh, they tend to be relatively thin skinned and juicy. Most have seeds, but the amount of seeds may vary from many to a few. Blood oranges are typically smaller than traditional oranges. Appearance on the skin can vary too, and sometimes as the orange ripens, a blush of red shows up on the skin, while others remain pale to dark orange without this appearance.

The simplest thing to do with a blood orange is peel and eat it. Though the skin is thin, they can be peeled, or they can be sliced and made into classic orange boats for consumption. The red juice may be a little prone to staining, so a napkin or paper towel is recommended.

There are many recipes that include blood oranges. They can be used in a variety of desserts, and they are an excellent addition in green salads or their juice can be used in citrus dressings. They can perk up fruit salads and essentially be employed in any recipe calling for oranges of other types.

One of the benefits of blood oranges is they have higher antioxidant levels than other varieties of oranges. The coloring of the orange represents the presence of anthocyanins, which are available in other dark colored fruits like cranberries. These chemicals are under investigation as potentially having anti-aging benefits and protection against things like cancer and heart disease. Combined with this is a generous serving of vitamin C. A single blood orange usually gives people over 100% of the recommended daily allowance for this vitamin.


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