Mediterranean diet


Blood oranges in the Mediterranean only came into being through mutations of different types of oranges, probably between grapefruit and tangerine, but they are for sure the stars among the fruits of the colder season. The very first orange probably came from China and was first grown 4,000 years ago before it made its journey to India via some detours. At around the 15th century, Arab merchants took the sweet fruit further afield to the Middle East, where they eventually reached Southern Europe by Portuguese seafarers and then spread across the Mediterranean region.

The seafarers recognized and valued the positive properties of oranges for the prevention of scurvy on their long adventures, and from the 18th century the European nobility became interested in the cultivation of citrus plants and other exotic potted plants. It quickly became fashionable to breed and hibernate fruits in wonderful, ornate orangeries in large castles and mansions. Today in the juicy (from bitter-sour to sugary-sweet) world of oranges, over 400 varieties are known, with the two dominant varieties being Navel and Valencia.


Blood oranges are mainly grown in Spain, Portugal and Italy where they are exported worldwide. Especially in Sicily, on the slopes of Mount Etna, they feel very comfortable given the altitude and ideal conditions which are characterized by intense sunlight and cold nights near the frost line. The blood orange with the botanical name Citrus × sinensis L is a rhombus plant and belongs to the citrus family. The mostly round, 6 to 9 cm large ripen- ing fruit, with a skin that appears slightly reddened, has a bitter, stronger taste than oranges, which is somewhat reminiscent of the taste of raspberries and cranberries.

However, the most extraordinary thing is the flesh under the skin, which can range from golden to ruby red and almost dark purple. Depending on the season, harvest time and variety, the pulp can be striped or completely colored. Anthocyanins, the pigment responsible for the red color, begins to develop on the skin and then follows the edges of the segments before merging into the pulp.

In order for this to happen, large temperature fluctuations at the time of ripening are extremely important in their formation, because for blood oranges to blush, the nighttime temperature must drop below freezing point for at least an hour. This means that a huge change of almost 20 degrees temperature has to occur within 24 hours period. In milder weather conditions, which are accompanied by smaller day-night temperature fluctuations, the color is actually much less noticeable or sometimes completely absent, and the fruits can hardly be distinguished from normal oranges.


Read the full article in Issue 16

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