Nothing can chase away the winter blues better than a dose of Sicily’s arance rosse, the “red oranges” commonly known as blood oranges. And in case you are thinking this means dark red blood oranges, you are only partially right, as Sicily produces 3 varieties of arance rosse that are protected under the IGP certification ( Indicazione Geografica Protetta) which is attributed to heirloom/heritage produce and products from specific geographic areas.
In eastern Sicily, this IGP area is roughly south of Catania and north of Syracuse in the fertile area enriched by the Mt. Etna volcano. The sharp difference in temperatures between day and night creates the perfect climate for blood oranges to produce anthocyanins, which are responsible for the red color of the flesh.
Moro variety has the dark wine-colored flesh often associated with blood oranges, while the Sanguinello has flesh just lightly streaked with red. Both are often used for juice.
In a class by itself is the plump
Tarocco orange, packed with 40% more vitamin C than other oranges, with a luscious orange pulp streaked with red. It was discovered near the Sicilian town of Francofonte sometime in the 18th century, and to any Sicilian, tarocco oranges from the Francofonte area are the most highly prized.
The color of the skin of the
tarocco blood orange gives little clue as to what is inside. Sometimes the skin is uniformly orange, or it can be blushed with red, as though embarrassed to reveal its voluptuous flesh. Fragrant and meaty, the flesh has just the right balance of acidity and sweetness, and the red streaks are bursting with the flavor of raspberries. Delicious eaten on its own, the tarocco orange is also excellent in salads with fennel, or it can nonchalantly hold its own in a pungent Sicilian salad of onions and black olives, something a standard navel orange couldn’t dream of doing.
An expert on walking and culinary tours in many areas of Italy, with a special focus on Sicily, Anita Iaconangelo is the founder of
Italian Connection Tours and author of the blog Anita’s Italy. She is currently at work on a book entitled Savoring Sicily: A Culinary Quest.