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Sicilian Blood Oranges

Sicilian Blood Oranges

I grew up thinking that all oranges were orange.  So my first encounter with red oranges was a surprise.  Years ago my brother Alan ordered fruit for dessert in a restaurant in Milan--they brought him a plate of oranges, he cut one in half, it looked bloody, very un-orange-like, crimson with streaks, he thought it was rotten, pushed it aside, tried another and, seeing the same unfamiliar look, skipped dessert.  He eventually learned, as I did, that red oranges are even better than the all-orange variety that we grew up with, with more complex flavors that hint of berries, and lots of anthocyanin (great antioxidant).   

Three cultivars of Sicilian red oranges have an IGP (protected geographical) designation and are grown in the provinces of Catania, Syracuse and Enna.  Tarocchi are thin-skinned with a hint of red, variegated orange and scarlet flesh, thought to be the finest expression of red oranges.  Sanguinelli have skin with a reddish blush, flesh is more or less streaked with crimson.  They are both pretty easy to find in Italy all winter long and into the spring.  My favorite is the hard-to-find Moro, thick smooth skin with faint ruby shading on one side, with flesh that ranges from deep orange to dark purple, with more antioxidants (since they're redder), available for only a few winter months.   I order a case from Il Biviere and feel positively wealthy when they arrive.   I squeeze juice, slice oranges for dessert, plain or topped with grated chocolate, chopped pistachio nuts or sweetened ricotta.  I make orange salad with fennel and onions, and Nicoletta's Sicilian gelo.  Sicilian ceramics, purchased from Panarello Antiques in Taormina years ago, complete the picture.

I've found some sources in the US for red oranges. Here and here.

I don't know if they are as wonderful as my Sicilian reds.  Let me know if you try them.


-February 2010 link to article published in  The Atlantic Magazine

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