Sicily is the land of oranges, a land full of flowers whose fragrance fills the air in spring… (Guy de Maupassant)
The Sicilian red oranges, which are grown exclusively in the territory of the Piana di Catania and in some municipalities in the province of Enna and Syracuse, are unique in the world for their flavour and nutritional properties, so much so that they have obtained the PGI mark from the European Union and are considered an exceptionally healthy fruit.
The presence of the active volcano, Mount Etna, a particularly fertile area that has a dry climate with intense temperature fluctuations, create the ideal conditions for cultivating this extraordinary fruit with its famous red pulp.
During the winter months, due to the clash between Etna’s snows and the warm sun, the temperature fluctuations are at their peak, causing a red pigment containing anthocyanin, a substance with strong antioxidant and anticancer properties, to form inside the fruit, along with high vitamin C content. This makes Sicily’s oranges unique and impossible to compare to those from other production territories.
Let’s learn about the three varieties on the market:
The dark orange with red pulp is slightly oval in shape. It’s a tasty orange, both on the table and as juice, and is rich in minerals, with little fat and high citric acid content. It’s the first red orange to ripen and is available in the markets in the period from December to February.
The Tarocco is the most popular variety among the red pulp oranges in Sicily. This table fruit, which is considered the queen of the three varieties, is round, seedless and easy to peel. At the beginning of the production season it has a lighter pulp but, as the snow appears on Mount Etna, the pigment becomes redder and redder. It can be enjoyed from December to April.
Blood oranges are a seedless fruit with a vinous red pulp. It’s excellent for juices and is suitable for sports practitioners. It ripens in February, but stays on the trees until April and is readily available until March.
For centuries, citrus fruits have been used for pharmaceutical, cosmetic, decorative and culinary reasons due to its fragrance, scent and rich nutritional properties.
In the past, even magical properties were attributed to oranges: for example, in the Middle Ages, it was believed that these citrus fruits could work as antidotes against snake bites and even elixirs for long life.
Every year, in the last week of February, when the orange is at its peak production, in a small town in the province of Catania called Palagonia, the Sagra dell’Arancia Rossafestival is held in Sicily: in the city streets, you can drink juice and taste dishes using the fruit, which is considered the very essence of Sicily.
Find out how to bring this wonderful island to your table with easy and super tasty recipes!