About 4 years ago we were driving around San Diego County when I saw a line of cars ahead of me pulling off the hillside road we were on. At first I figured there must be an amazing lookout view because so many cars were taking the risk to veer off.
I was disappointed to discover that there was nothing particularly picturesque to see, just an old orchard. But I did see a line of people buying oranges out of the back of an old pickup truck. I asked myself, “was this what everyone was stopping for; Oranges?!”
Worse, the oranges were small, so I had no idea what all the excitement was about.
I walked up closer and read, “Blood Orange” scribbled on a piece of cardboard. Blood Orange? Seriously, what the heck is this I thought? Is this some kind of gimmick? Besides, it was January, not October 31st. Since I was already there, I figured what the heck, I’ll buy a bag of these things. Unfortunately I didn’t try them untill I got home. I say unfortunately because if I knew then what I know now, I would have bought 10 bags of them not just one.
Blood Orange fruit appearance:
The fruit is about 1/2 to 1/3 the size of a typical grocery store navel orange. But the skin of many of the oranges is splashed with red.
Blood Oranges can be tricky to peal because the skin is often thin and clings to the flesh. The flesh of the fruit ranges from dark crimson to a mix of red and orange.
The flavor is sweet like an orange but also mixed with raspberry. The combo is really wonderful. Variable tartness. Many believe that seasonal temperature is a major factor affecting the flavor and color of all blood oranges.
Blood Orange tree fruit season:
There are 3 main types of Blood Orange trees:
- Tarocco blood orange tree (native to Italy). Less pigmentation than the other two. This one the sweetest and most flavorful of them all. It is not only my favorite blood orange… it is my favorite citrus of all time. The tree is vigorous and moderately productive. I have written a dedicated article about the Taracco Blood Orange with organized and compete instructions for growing/cultivating this tree.
- Sanguinello blood orange tree (native to Spain). Orange flesh with red streaks which is sweet and tender. The fruit often matures in February, but can remain on trees until April/May. The tree is small/medium in size, spineless, and very productive.
- Moro blood orange tree (thought to have originated in Sicily). It is the most colorful of them all; they can be ruby-veined to nearly black. Sweet flavor with a hint of raspberry and dense flesh. Some believe this orange is more bitter than the Tarocco or the Sanguinello. However, I have found the flavor to be variable even within a subtype. Some people have reported that the best flavor is often from fruit grown in inland valleys, perhaps from the heat. Fruit can remain on trees until April/May, but flavor declines if on the tree too long. Tree is of moderate growth/size and has a round-somewhat spreading appearance.
Plant them anywhere that you would plant any other citrus. They are a great long range focal point use. The evergreen foliage can hide/screen undesirable areas. Flowers smell awesome-even at a short distance. See above subtypes for specific growth habits.
A lot of sources say that you just put a citrus in the ground and it will be fine. However, this has definitely not been my experience. After planting more citris trees than I can count, I have found that they need more than they typical native California soil. I dig a hole at least 2x the size of the pot it came in and liberally augment the soil. I believe the extra nutrients reduce transplantation shock. In addition, the extra organic material will cut down on your water bill in the long run. I also inoculate the roots with micorriza.
I water 1-to-2x/week in the summer. Infrequent and deep-heavy watering is much better than frequent light watering. You can usually cut way back on the watering in the winter after a tree is established. Mulching always helps retain moisture. Most citrus don’t like standing water.
Balanced fertilizer in growing season (4x/y). Most citrus also need micronutrients yearly, which I give at the beginning of growing the season. Throwing in a random assortment of organic fertilizer whenever you have it is always appreciated (compost, worm castings etc).
- Typical citrus temps. Citrus don’t like frost. A Mediterranean climate seems ideal.
- For more information about the lowest temperatures that you can expect in your area, check out my article “Climate Zones: What can I grow in my yard?”
Some kind-of rodent girdled one of my trees by eating the bark at the base of the trunk. I think it was a squirrel or rabbit but I do not have direct proof. I now put a wire cage around the bottom of all my citrus and I have not had any problems since.
Citrus leafminer is a big problem for all citrus in Southern California; but there are ways to effectively deal with them.
Eat out of hand, juice, salad, gelato, sorbet, Italian soda, vinaigrette-style dressings.
The color of the flesh/juice is due to the presence of anthocyanins (antioxidant) which is a family of pigments uncommon in citrus fruits but common in many flowers and other fruit.