Saturday, January 23, 2010

Twenty years ago it wasn't so easy to find a blood orange in the U.S. If they were grown in the States at all, they certainly didn't make their way into grocery stores.

In Europe, it was a different story. When citrus season arrived (basically, December through April), blood oranges overflowed in street markets in Paris and green grocers in Italy.

I had my first taste of one of these unusually sweet, tangy fruits while staying at a youth hostel in Brussels in 1986. Ruby-colored, pinkish or sometimes flecked with scarlet, these sweet flavor bombs taste a little like strawberries. And I couldn't get enough of them. My friend and traveling companion Maura mocked my new-found obsession with a cartoon that documented my fondness for patisseries--and blood oranges, my new accessory. (While the bag of oranges in the drawing is no exaggeration, I DID NOT dress in plaid shorts or tropical print shirts.)

Growing up, I couldn't be bothered to peel oranges, but suddenly, no amount of clawing and peeling was too much effort to get at the flesh of this fragrant, flavorful citrus.

These days it's a different story and blood oranges are grown in California and can be found in many grocery stores. As with anything else, though, they vary in quality. I begin buying them around Christmastime and stop when they turn mealy and flavorless around late March or early April. So there's still time--look for these sweet gems in your grocery store or in dishes served in restaurants such as Logan Square's Lula.


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