On the left, weighing in at 6 ounces, is a Sunkist blood orange grown in California. On the right, weighing in at 7 ounces and sporting a paper wrapper, is a Bella Vita blood orange hailing from Sicily. Both were purchased at Agata & Valentina on New York's Upper East Side.
Aside from their state of dress (or lack thereof in the case of the Californian), both oranges look pretty similar on the surface. However, when sliced, they reveal their differences.
The California orange bears a thick skin, slightly dry flesh, and deep, dark ruby red color, while its thin-skinned, juicier, and sweeter Sicilian cousin resembles a typical orange marbled with more saturated orange tones resembling, dare I say, saffron. Both taste great, but I would hand the victory to the Californian in delivering on the visual promise of its moniker.
I was surprised at the difference between these blood oranges, particularly since this New York magazine article describes Sicilian blood oranges as having flesh "so dark it’s nearly black." This could not have been farther than the case for my (unscientific) sample, but, who knows when it comes to fruits and vegetables? Perhaps on a return visit or a trip to another store, I would find a batch of Sicilian blood oranges as dark as the Californian ones I picked up this week.
I made the most of my international blood orange supply, and against chef Jody Williams's wishes, I prepared her Insalata D’arancia using both varieties. The salad is fantastic and easy to prepare: sweet from the oranges, salty from the anchovies and olives, and crunchy from the onions, not to mention lovely to look at.
Make it now as a protest against this neverending winter.
California blood oranges and Sicilian blood oranges are both $2.99 per pound at Agata & Valentina, 1505 First Avenue at 79th Street (212.452.0690).