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Natural Foods Merchandiser

It's in our bloods

If your customers like citrus, they'll love the blood oranges that are in the market right now. This sweet fruit got its name in ancient times from its deep red-colored flesh. While you may not think the name is very appetizing, the distinctive flavor is. Bloods are very different than other oranges your customers are used to eating. They have a rich flavor reminiscent of Valencia raspberry syrup. Even the skin can be slightly sweet—good to know for customers who use zest in their cooking.

But not all blood oranges are the same. The three most widely grown varieties are:

  • The Moro. The most common variety, it 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 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 tastiest.

    Know the story on this interesting fruit when talking it up. Indigenous to Italy, the blood orange is an offshoot of the sweet oranges that came from Asia in the 1400s. It is believed that the sun and volcanic soil around Mount Etna where the oranges grow are what give the fruit its unique flavor and color. And who knows, it may be true! Growing conditions certainly have a large impact on the blood oranges cultivated in the U.S. Bloods grown in Florida don't have nearly the deep red color as the bloods grown in California. This has been attributed to Florida's limestone soils 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. Many of the blood oranges you enjoy are California grown.

    One last tip: Offer samples and suggestions for eating them. There are many ways to enjoy blood oranges: fresh out of hand, in juice (how'd you like to wake up to a glass of ruby-colored OJ in the morning?), as sorbet (one of my all-time favorite sorbet flavors) or even in spinach salad with toasted pecans and feta cheese. Talk about eating your colors. I say dig in!

    Mark Mulcahy has 25 years experience in the organic produce industry.

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