The Sicilian Red Orange has Chinese origin. In ancient times it was wide spread in the Mediterranean area, but used mostly for decorative or religious purposes. From the XVII century onward, thanks to the Arabs that knew its healty and dietary features, it has been widely consumed in South Italy. The pigmented variety was probably introducted in Sicily by a Genoese missionary got back from the Philippines, as Ferrari the Jesuit (1646) reports in Hesperides. It was a well known product during the Risorgimento; as can be inferred by a telegram written by Camillo Benso, count of Cavour, in July 1860: “Oranges are on our table and we are waiting for our maccheroni pasta to be cooked”. He was alluding to the occupation of Sicily by Garibaldi and his troups. From the middle of the XX century, red oranges growing has gained an increasingly prominent role in the Sicilian economy, in terms of land under cultivation and volume of production.
The environmental conditions for growing the PGI Sicilian red orange are uniquely the traditional in the area. The ripening period ranges from December to April, depending on the specific varitety. The Tarocco oranges, for example, are picked from December to the second week of May: the Moro oranges have a shorter ripening period and are picked from February to April. The fruits are hand-picked and the peduncle is cutted by special scissors. After the picking no processing is allowed on the fruit, including the degreening a pratice that by treatment with gas allow the fruits ripen early to reach the typical colour before been put on the sale.
Appearance and flavor
The PGI Sicilian red orange shape is globose and ovoid; the pulp colour is orange with red variegations (Tarocco and Sanguinello varieties) or wine red variegations (Moro variety). Fruits minimum caliber is 10 mm, the diameter 60-68 mm. They are rich in vitamins and beneficial nutrients for digestion, metabolic functions, ageing retardation and cellular decay prevention.
The PGI Sicilian Red Orange must be stored in a dry and cool place. It is excellent if eaten fresh, removing the white part under the peel and the skin between the segments. The fruit can be used for juices preparation, marmalades, salads, sauces and liqueurs, the peel for candits and dessert preparation. The PGI Sicilian red orange is used also to season birds, pork and whitefishes.
The product is commercialized as PGI Sicilian Red Orange, Tarocco, Moro or Sanguinello variety. It is sold packaged or unpackaged from December to April, each variety according to its proper season.(Source: PGI Sicilian Red Orange Consortium)
PGI Sicilian Red Orange is marked out by its unique red pigments due to antocyanine (especially the cyanidin-3-glucoside) and the very high concentration of antioxidants.