Juicy blood oranges, sold as Moros from California, are so dark red inside, Sunkist Growers spokesperson Leland Wong says consumers often contact Sunkist in a panic, convinced they’ve just purchased a rotten orange.
Chefs and other citrus lovers wait all year for their blood orange fix, Wong says. Unlike the majority of consumers, they don’t care that it’s smaller than a regular navel orange or that it may contain a few seeds. They’re only interested in its rich orange flavour with a hint of tart raspberry.
This year should be especially good for California Moros, Wong says. The tree is alternate-bearing, which means the yield is low one year and high the next. Since we’re in an “up” year, there should be more around.
Alessandro Scuderi Matarazzo, president of the Consortium for Sicilian blood oranges in Catania, on Sicily’s east coast, says blood oranges thrive in the island’s volcanic soil and are still harvested according to centuries-old traditions.
The deep burgundy Moro variety is believed to have originated in Sicily in the early 1800s, and ripens earlier than the Tarocco, an older Italian native, and the Sanguinello, native to Spain.
Anthocyanins in the pulp and rind, a powerful antioxidant, give blood oranges their red colour. The same natural pigment turns cherries red and blueberries blue.
Cool winter nights give the Moro’s skin a dark red blush. If you don’t see a blush, or if the flesh inside isn’t completely red, don’t worry — it should still be ripe and tangy.
California Moros are at their peak from January to mid-April, if they last that long, says Wong. Regular orange navels should be available from now through June.
• Toss blood orange slices or segments into salads, salsas and chutneys.
• Muddle Moros in a cocktail or add the juice to Prosecco.
• A popular Sicilian winter salad pairs sliced blood oranges with sliced fennel and olive oil.
• Add fizz to your life with the Italian soda flavour Arancia Rossa (red orange).
• Make a bright red blood orange sorbet.
• Squeeze blood orange juice into a vinaigrette for a salad of bitter greens.
• For a colourful fruit salad, combine slices from a blood orange, a regular navel orange and a pink Cara Cara, another winter gem.
• Store all oranges in a plastic bag or in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.
• Extend the season by refrigerating or freezing freshly-squeezed blood orange juice.
• Freeze the grated peel to add zest to recipes.
Kale, Blood Orange & Squash Salad
½ cup (125 mL) fresh blood orange juice
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
¼ cup (60 mL) extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp (2 mL) freshly ground pepper
½ cup(125 mL) toasted walnut halves
1 tbsp (15 mL) butter
1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
2 cups (500 mL) butternut squash cubes, cut 1-inch (2.5 cm) thick
6 cups (1.5L) packed chopped kale leaves (thick stems discarded)
2 blood oranges, peeled, seeded, each cut into 6 circles
3 tbsp (45 mL) pomegranate seeds (optional)
In small bowl, whisk together orange and lemon juice, red wine vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in olive oil and set aside.
In same skillet, melt butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add squash and cook about 8 minutes, turning occasionally, until golden and just tender.
For salad, in large bowl add kale, cooked squash and walnuts. Toss with just enough dressing to moisten leaves.
Divide among four plates and decorate each with four orange circles and pomegranate seeds.
Makes 4 servings.
Note: You can also cook thin curved slices of squash for garnish, shown in photo, cut from the hollowed-out bottom of the butternut squash.
Chef’s tip: To make citrus circles, slice off the top and bottom of each orange to reveal the flesh. Set on cutting board and place a sharp paring knife between the peel and the flesh at the top. Gently cut down, following the curve of the fruit and removing all white pith as you go. Cut into circles horizontally, removing any pits.