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February, 2009

Odd Name, Great Taste

By Dennis Linden

If you like citrus, you’ll love Melissa’s Organic Blood Oranges. These sweet, baseball-sized fruits got their name, in ancient times, from their deep red-colored flesh that is reminiscent of blood.

Organic Blood Oranges
While the name may not be appetizing their distinctive flavor is. Quite different than other oranges, they have a rich flavor that is reminiscent of raspberries. Even the skin can be slightly sweet.

But not all blood oranges are the same. The three most widely grown varieties you’ll find in your produce departments are:

The Moro – the most common variety has a rich flavor, a round shape, and is the most highly colored.

The Sanguinelli - often first on the market, this oblong shaped fruit has a strawberry red flesh.

The Tarocco - the largest blood orange, is more elongated than the others. It also has the highest juice content and its almost berry-flavored flesh makes it the best flavored. But where do all of these interesting oranges come from?

The blood orange is a descendent of the sweet oranges that first arrived from Asia in the 1400’s, the “arrance rosse” or blood orange is indigenous to Italy. Apparently they originated in the17th century from a spontaneous mutation somewhere near Mount Etna, in Sicily. It’s believed that the sun and volcanic soil near Mount Etna’s black slopes has something to do with the unique flavor and color of the blood oranges grown there. And who knows, it may be true! These conditions certainly have a large impact on the blood oranges grown in the U.S. Bloods grown in Florida don’t have nearly the red color as the ones grown in California. This has been attributed to Florida’s limestone soil and weather. On the other hand, California’s hot summer days and cold winter nights are similar to the weather in Sicily and these conditions bring out the best flavor and color. So why not put this to test? Pick up some bloods and try this salsa recipe from Bon Appétit, February 2005.

Blood Orange, Avocado, and Red Onion Salsa

You’ll need:
1 blood orange
½ cup
1/3-inch avocado cubes
1/3 cup chopped red onion
2 teaspoons red jalapeño, minced
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

Using a small, sharp knife, cut peel and remove the white pith from the orange. Working over a small bowl, cut between the membranes to release the segments. Add avocado, onion, jalapeño, and lime juice to oranges in a bowl; stir gently to blend. Season salsa to taste with salt.

If you have more of a sweet tooth, you haven’t tried sorbet until you’ve tried:

Blood Orange Sorbet

Bon Appétit | January 2004

4 pounds blood oranges
1-1/4 cups water
3/4 cup sugar

Finely grate enough peel from the oranges to measure 1-1/2 tablespoons. Combine 1-1/4 cups water, sugar, and 1-1/2 tablespoons orange peel in a heavy, medium-sized saucepan. Stir over high heat until sugar dissolves and syrup boils; remove syrup from heat. Cut all peel and pith from oranges. Working over a bowl to catch the juices, cut between membranes to release orange segments. Discard any seeds. Transfer orange mixture to processor; purée until smooth, about 30 seconds. Measure 2- 1/3 cups orange purée and mix into orange syrup (reserve any remaining purée for another use). Cover orange mixture; refrigerate at least 6 hours and up to 1 day to blend flavors.

Process orange mixture in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to container; cover and freeze. (Can be made 2 days ahead.) I’m sure you will find one of these to your liking. And while you are eating these treats think about this: of all citrus fruits, blood oranges are the richest in vitamin C, containing almost twice the average for navel oranges. Research shows that the anthocyanins, the red pigments that give blood oranges their distinctive berry-like taste and color, strengthen the circulatory system. Anthocyanins actually do a better job of protecting arteries than vitamins C and E. Anthocyanins protect both large and small blood vessels from oxidative damage in several ways. They neutralize enzymes that destroy connective tissue and their antioxidant capacity prevents oxidants from damaging connective tissue. As if that weren’t enough, they also repair damaged proteins in the blood-vessel walls. Anthocyanins have also been shown to neutralize free radicals that may cause cancer.

Tasty and healthy; you can’t beat that. I say, lets dig in!