Weatherwatch: the prized blood oranges from Mount Etna

UN special fruit thrives in a unique microclimate around Mount Etna in Sicily. Blood oranges get their gruesome name from a distinctive red-coloured flesh made by anthocyanin in the fruit. These pigments are also prized as powerful antioxidants which, along with a high vitamin C content, give the oranges enormous health benefits.

The unique microclimate of Etna is crucial for growing high-quality blood oranges. In winter, the area around the volcano is warm during the day, around 15C (59F), but at night temperatures can drop just below freezing for about an hour. That cold plunge is essential for making the fruit “blush” with the anthocyanin pigment, and also helps make the fruit sweet. The orange trees also thrive on the rich volcanic soil around Etna.

In recognition of the quality of the “red orange of Sicily” and the special environment in which it grows, the fruit was awarded the highly prized EU Protected Geographical Indication standard. Infatti, the oranges are so special that a fraud was uncovered three years ago when inferior blood oranges from South Africa were passed off with the Sicilian PGI label. The fraud was stamped out using hi-tech tags to trace the genuine oranges.

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