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Sicilian Red Oranges

Citrus fruits have been cultivated in Italy since ancient times. In Sicily, the "blood" orange gained its nickname because of its ruby flesh that contains the red pigment, anthocyanin a strong antioxidant. Today, blood oranges are considered the hallmark of Sicilian fruit.

Three blood orange varieties, Tarocco, Moro and Sanguinello, can be traced to the hilly areas and plains surrounding the Mt. Etna volcano in Sicily. Temperatures in this region range from intense daylight to frigid temperatures at night. It also has other variables, including modest rainfall and rich soil. The combination of these factors results in a Sicilian Red orange that has incomparable sweetness and distinguishable color. Sicily combines the juciness of the Florida oranges with the appearance of the California counterpart which contains 20 percent. The fruit is easy to peel, and most varieties are seedless.

The Sicilian Red orange is clearly connected to its natural Mediterranean environment, resulting in fruit with superb flavor that cannot be replicated. These factors position Sicily as the largest producer in the world. It is also why the European Union recognizes the Eastern Sicily area as a Protected Geographical indication, Arancia Rossa di Sicilia, for cultivating Tarocco, Moro and Sanguinello varieties.

Sicilian Red Orange Varieties

Morro: The Morro variety is believed to have originated at the beginning of the 19th century in the citrus-growing area around Lentini (in the Province of Siracusa in Sicily) as a bud mutation of the "Sanguigno". Moro are "full-blood" oranges meaning that the flesh ranges from orange-veined with ruby coloration, to vermillion, to vivid crimson and to nearly black. The thick orange-colored peel has a medium fine grain with spots or red wine veins.

Tarocco: The most popular table orange in Italy, the Tarocco, is thought to have derived from a mutation of the "Sanguinello". It is referred to as "half-blood" because the flesh is not accentuated in red pigmentation as much as Moro and Sanguinello varieties. It has thin orange skin, slightly blushed in red tones. The Tarocco is one of the world's most popular oranges because of its sweetness (brix to acid ratio is generally above 12.0) and juciness. It has the highest Vitamin C content of any orange variety grown in the world, due primarily to the fertile soil surrounding Mount Etna, and it is easy to peel. The Tarocco orange is seedless, and it contains antocyanins, as do other blood oranges. The name, "Tarocco" is thought to have derived from an exclamation of wonder expressed by the farmer who was shown this fruit by its discoverer.

Sanguinello: Sanguinello, the Sicilian late "full-blood" orange, is close in characteristics to the Moro. It matures in February, but can remain on trees unharvested until April. Fruit can last until the end of May. The peel is compact, clear yellow with a red tinge. The flesh is orange with multiple blood-colored streaks.

History and Background

Citrus fruits have been cultivated in Sicily since ancient times, and cultivation is documented since the time of Moorish rule. While Arabs are creditied with originally lanting lemons and bitter oranges in Sicily, the Genovese and Portuguese crusaders introduced the sweet variety, Portogallo, in the 15th century.

By the 18th century, the Normans had long expelled the Arabic invaders. As the fruit's health-benefiting properties became known, Sicily began shipping oranges around the world. Today, Sicilian citrus is found in virtually every country that permits imports, including in the United States.

Nutritional Information

Sicilian Red oranges deliver more than instant gratification in the form of flavor and sweetness. They also contain nutritional and preventive properties. Realizing the health-related benefits, growers incorporated blood oranges into their home remedies for centuries. Current research indicates that blood oranges are a good source of Vitamin C. The fruit's red pigment, anthocyanin, is an antioxidant known to reduce the risks associated with many ailments, including age-related illness.

Blood oranges in general contain about 130 percent of the recommented amounts of Vitamin C. Recent research shows signs of Vitamin C being effective in diminishing the risk of heart disease, some types of cancer and "bad" cholesterol build-up. It may also reduce the risk of cataracts, and aid in the body's overall natural healing process.

One medium-size orange contains 260 milligrams of potassium, which is 15 percent of the FDA's daily recommendation. Potassium also plays a key role in lowering blood pressure, thereby decreasing the risk of both heart attacks and strokes. It also helps to regulate heart rhythm, and it provides energy-a key ingredient for body growth and maintenance.

Eating a medium-sized orange provides 28 percent of the recommended daily value of dietary fiber. Oranges provide more fiber than any of the top 20 fruits or vegetables consumed today. Soluble dietary fiber may also help lower cholesterol, and protect against colon cancer.

Oranges are also a source of Iron, Calcium and Vitamin A.


Sicilian Blood Orange Salad

Other recipes from Produce Pete.


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