On the Alitalia flight to Trieste on my way back to Italy, I remember when the hostesses were pushing the drinks trolley down the aisle and offering a free drink and biscuits to the passengers. Many of the passengers were, of course, asking for their drink in English. It would have been all to easy to do the same but I really wanted to start the trip off on the right foot by speaking entirely in Italian. What on earth was the Italian for orange juice? Succo d’arancia? Was it really ‘succo’? Even though I wasn’t 100% sure, I decided to try anyway. Happily, of course, I was understood and I soon received a little plastic cup and pack of biscuits.
I was a bit surprised at first, when I saw that the cup contained a deep red liquid that looked nothing like orange juice. Then I remembered. This wasn’t your plain old ‘orange’ orange juice, but blood orange juice. Yes, blood! I’d completely forgotten that in Italy, the most common orange is not the one we are used to in the UK but the dark red, or ‘blood’ variety. It is possible to buy blood oranges and blood orange juice in UK supermarkets, but they are typically expensive and not widely stocked.
The blood orange originates in Sicily (arancia rossa di Sicilia), in the areas surroundings Mount Etna. I guess the fertile volcanic soil and high daytime temperatures contribute to giving the fruit its unique flavour. The three most common varieties are the ‘Sanguinello’, the ‘Moro’, and the ‘Tarroco’. The Sanguinello (meaning ‘bloody’) is the original blood orange fruit, from which the other two have been derived following natural mutations arising during cultivation over the centuries. Tarroco is the most popular everyday orange in Italy and the one from which most orange juice there is produced.
The blood orange is typically sweeter and juicier than its lighter coloured cousins and is absolutely delicious. They are also apparently very healthy, containing high levels of antioxidants, including vitamin C. A small glass of cold blood orange juice (succo d’arancia rossa) or its fizzy variety (aranciata rossa) is one of the most refreshing drinks I know.
Now I’m thirsty.