Contributed by Katy Morris
photos: Isabelle Cossart
You don’t have to wait until spring to enjoy some sunshine. The cream of the winter citrus crop is at its peak right now and we’ve fallen hard for blood oranges!
Their bright citrus flavor makes them an ideal partner with roasted winter root vegetables and they offer a warm burst of happy color along with some little known health benefits.
After Liz discovered the “impossibly magenta oranges” from Isabelle Cossart’s Orange Orchard at NYC’s Print Restaurant a couple of years ago, we reached out to the southern organic citrus farmer herself to get all the juicy details about blood oranges. And when she told us that “The only thing I put on my trees is sunshine, ladybugs, rain and TLC!” we just had to share this with our readers.
Isabelle Cossart, organic farmer
How are they different than regular oranges?
Blood oranges are smaller, less acidic versions of regular oranges that according to Cossart, are “sweet with a tinge of tartness and a lot of floral hints like lavender and hibiscus.” The difference may be hard to spot on the outside, but peel away the skin of a blood orange and you will be greeted by a radiating ruby-tinted flesh that clearly sets it apart from varieties like navels.
Blood oranges, which are a hybrid of pomelos and tangerines, also have a higher percentage of vitamin C than regular oranges.
What’s with the crazy red color?
The color-intensifying driver that makes these vibrant beauties blush is anthocyanin, an antioxidant compound found in other red fruits like red cabbages and grapes. As the nights get cooler in typically warm areas like the southern US and the Mediterranean coast, more anthocynanins are produced and the rose color deepens.
Good to know: these compounds are actually cancer fighters and also help prevent heart disease.
So when are they at their best?
There are two main types of blood oranges: Moro, which is at its best from December through March, and Tarocco, which peaks from January to May – so, now!
And even though the cool nights are perfect for winter citrus, farmers like Cossart have to keep a close eye on them before a dreaded deep freeze hits – check out the loads of harvested citrus they scrambled to save just a couple of weeks ago by covering them with insulating plastic bags!
What is the best way to use them in dishes?
They are perfect accompaniments to earthy root vegetables and make great additions to fresh greens (try tossing some in this Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese Mousse). You can also make mouthwatering, eye-catching juice with them (keep in mind that because of their sweetness, the juice will ferment more quickly than regular OJ) or even to make this great raw, vegan, pareve Blood Orange Cheesecake.
“I juice them or use them in spinach and endive salads,” says Cossart. “I also freeze them as popsicles.” She also recommends jazzing up mimosas to add some beautiful and unexpected color with blood orange juice instead of regular OJ.
How to store them?
Blood oranges will be fine out on the counter if eaten within a few days, but to make them last up to two weeks you should pop them in the drawer in your fridge.
How can I get some of Isabelle’s blood oranges?
Contact Isabelle’s Orchard for blood oranges, sugar navels, Louisiana sweet oranges and ruby red grapefruit as well. Go old school and pick up the phone to order. They like to hear human voices when taking the orders.
Pricing Details: Kosher Like Me readers are invited to use reference code “SNIPPET” to receive a $5 discount on orders of at least 20 pounds (or roughly 25-30 fruits)! Please share this deal with your friends, too.
If you’re hooked on buying the freshest, organic citrus directly from the farmer, be sure to sign up for their New Fruit Notifications so you can be ahead of the curve on seasonal citrus throughout the year.
How else can I get my hands on them?
You can also get Moro blood oranges from local Whole Foods and Balducci’s. Be sure to pick fruit that is heavy for it’s size (more juice). Note that little blemishes or brown areas on the skin will not affect the flavor but avoid any fruit with spongy spots.
Bite-size recap on Blood Oranges:
- What: Blood oranges are a winter citrus fruit originally from the southern coasts of Spain and Italy that are sweeter and have a hint of floral notes and are chockfull of antioxidants
- Where: They are now growing in warm climates in the US, like California, Louisiana and Florida
- When: NOW! Blood oranges thrive roughly from December through early spring
- What to look for: Look for ones heavy for their size; don’t get caught up on minor blemishes but watch out for very bruised ones
- How to use: For juice, out of hand, in salads, and paired with winter vegetables like in the fennel recipe below!
- Storage: Refrigerate if you will not be eating right away