Blood Oranges of Sicily: the quintessential fruit of health.
Sicilian blood oranges are a delicious and nutritious fruit, grown in only a few areas of the world. They primarily come from the Plain of Catania and some municipalities in the provinces of Enna and Syracuse. They are renowned for their unique quality and characteristics, recognized by the European Union with the IGP (Protected Geographical Indication) label.
The Etna volcano, the fertile soil, and the dry climate of the region provide the ideal conditions for the growth of this special red-fleshed fruit. During the winter, the contrast between the cold of the snow on Etna and the warmth of the Sicilian sun produces a red pigmentation in the fruits. This is rich in anthocyanin, a substance with powerful antioxidant and anti-cancer properties.
There are three main varieties of Sicilian blood oranges: Moro, Tarocco, and Sanguinello. The Moro ripens first, between December and February, and is rich in minerals and citric acid. Tarocco, considered the best of the three varieties, has flesh that becomes redder with the appearance of snow on Etna and is available from December to April. Lastly, Sanguinello is excellent for juicing and suitable for athletes, available from February to April. For centuries, citrus fruits like Sicilian blood oranges have been used for pharmaceutical, cosmetic, decorative, and culinary purposes, thanks to their fragrance and nutritional value. They were also believed to have magical properties, such as antidotes against venomous snake bites and as an elixir of long life in the Middle Ages.
Every year, in February, the town of Palagonia celebrates the Sicilian Blood Orange Festival, where visitors can savor fresh juices and dishes made from this iconic fruit, a symbol of Sicily. Sicilian blood oranges can be used in many sweet and savory recipes, such as jams, sorbets, salads, risottos, and marinades for meat or fish. They are versatile, rich in vitamin C, potassium, calcium, and folates, and represent an excellent choice for a healthy and balanced diet due to their low fat content. Experiment with these oranges to bring a touch of Sicily to your table and discover new delicious flavors.
Here's a list of the three main varieties of Sicilian blood oranges:
Moro blood orange: It has a slightly oval shape and is rich in minerals and citric acid. It's the first to ripen and is available in markets from December to February.
Tarocco: It's the most prized variety among Sicilian blood oranges. It has a spherical shape, seedless flesh, and is easy to peel. At the beginning of the production season, its flesh is lighter but becomes increasingly red with the appearance of snow on Etna. It can be enjoyed from December to April.
Sanguinello or Sanguigno: It has a wine-red, seedless flesh and is excellent for juicing. It ripens in February but stays on the trees until April and is easily available until March.
Here are some recipes to use Sicilian blood oranges in the preparation of tasty aperitifs and desserts:
Blood Orange and Lemon Juice: In a glass, mix the juice of one Sicilian blood orange and the juice of half a lemon. Add some ice and serve with a fresh mint leaf.
Orange and Avocado Salad: In a bowl, mix slices of a Sicilian blood orange with avocado cubes, cherry tomatoes, and arugula leaves. Dress with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and black pepper.
Crostini with Ricotta and Blood Orange Cream: Prepare a ricotta cream by mixing 200 grams of fresh ricotta with the juice of half a Sicilian blood orange. Spread the cream on toasted bread crostini and garnish with orange zest and some fresh thyme leaves.
Blood Orange Cake: Prepare a shortcrust pastry with flour, butter, sugar, and eggs. Roll out the dough in a cake tin and fill with slices of Sicilian blood oranges and sugar. Bake at 180°C (350°F) for about 30 minutes. Serve the cake with a dusting of powdered sugar.