The Beautiful Blood Orange

Posted on July 01, 2018

By Atlanta Macklin RDN, LD

The blood orange, with its signature crimson-colored flesh, is the result of a natural mutation of the common navel orange. The deep red color of this fruit comes from a pigment called anthocyanin, which is also responsible for the beautiful reds of cherries, beets, apple skins, and many other fruits and vegetables.

Although the exact origin of the blood orange is unknown, some historians believe Arab traders first introduced the fruit in Sicily during the 7th century. Due to their striking appearance, blood oranges were initially cultivated as merely ornaments until the 16th century. While Italy still remains the top producer of blood oranges today, they can now be found in virtually every country in the world.

There are three main varieties of blood oranges: the Moro, Tarocco, and Sanguinello. While not all supermarkets will use these identifying names, each type can be distinguished by color and flavor. The Moro is the most common blood orange in the United States. It has a bright orange- and pink-tinted rind, a deep crimson flesh, and a sweet-tart flavor. The Tarocco—sometimes referred to as “half-blood”—has a yellow-orange rind, paler flesh, and is the sweetest of the three types. The rind of the Sanguinello is rose-tinted and its flavor is similar to the Moro.  

Like all citrus fruits, blood oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C.  Vitamin C is an antioxidant that is crucial to healing and repairing damaged tissues. Just one medium orange provides more than 100% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C. Blood oranges are also high in potassium, an essential nutrient that maintains fluid and electrolyte balance in the body. In addition to being rich in vitamins and minerals, blood oranges are also a good source of fiber, providing three grams, or 12% of the recommended daily intake, per serving. Finally, some research suggests that anthocyanin—the pigment that sets the blood orange apart from its navel counterpart—may fight against cardiovascular disease, cancer, and cognitive decline.

Blood oranges are beautiful, delicious and easy to incorporate into almost any meal. Try one of the tips below to start enjoying them today!  
  • Top salads with blood oranges or blend them into salsas. Top off grilled fish or tofu with blood orange salsa.
  • Mix with wine vinegar and herbs for a light and flavorful salad dressing.
  • Blend with beetroot and coconut for a sweet and savory soup.

HHS Chef John Patterson shares three delicious recipes that incorporate blood oranges. Try them all out for yourself and let us know which one was your favorite by posting on our HHS Facebook page.

Couscous with Blood Orange and Pine Nuts
Pork Ribs with Blood Orange Barbecue Sauce
Summer Salad with Blood Orange Vinaigrette