Another notable difference between the red oranges and the true blood oranges is the way in which the flesh is colored. The true blood oranges often have light orange flesh with splotches or streaks of deep red 'blood', while in lycopene-pigmented citrus the flesh is usually uniformly colored. Vaniglia Sanguino is described as a sweet, but acidless orange, which means I probably won't like it. To me, really low acid varieties of citrus almost always taste insipid and lack flavor. The Ruby blood orange is reported to have good flavor when grown in "hot interior districts", but only develops red coloration under favorable conditions. Beaumont citrus grower Mr. Texas says that Ruby has never developed any coloration for him. I tasted a Ruby this weekend that was a good tasting fruit, but nothing spectacular, and it had no coloration.
The three most common true blood oranges you're likely to see at Houston area nurseries and fruit tree sales are Moro, Sanguinelli, and Tarocco. Opinions on which of these cultivars is the best varies greatly, although everyone seems to agree that Moro is most likely to develop good coloration. Lake Jackson citrus expert John Panzarella believes Tarocco to be the sweetest and best tasting of the three. He also reports that Sanguinelli is tight skinned, and the fruit tends to split there's a heavy rain following a dry period. Beaumont citrus grower Mr. Texas prefers the taste of Sanguinelli, and believes that Tarocco is too late ripening. I have tasted spectacular Sanguinellis in Beaumont, terrific Taraccos in Lake Jackson, and magnificent Moros in The Woodlands, and it seems location can have a significant effect on the quality of the fruit.
I believe this is because blood oranges typically develop their characteristic red coloration in response to cool night-time temperatures, so generally speaking, the farther north you are the bloodier your blood oranges will be. For example, at the recent Upper Gulf Coast Citrus Show I had the unique opportunity to taste all 3 varieties, all grown by Butch Roden of Clute, Texas. Clute is 85 miles south of me, right on the coast, and probably doesn't get nearly as chilly as my yard does. None of his fruit had developed good color, but they were still pretty tasty. In contast, my friend Andrew is growing Moros in The Woodlands, and some of the fruit from his trees are almost entirely red.
As I mentioned, I have tasted all three varieties, and personally find it very difficult to pick a favorite. To me the Moro has the most distinctive flavor. For lack of a better way to describe it, I think it tastes like a good sweet orange that has been spiked with a little bit of grape juice. This unique flavor, combined with the fact that it develops the best color and ripens earlier than Tarocco, makes the Moro the best choice for my area of northwest Houston in my opinion. To test this theory, I grafted all three blood orange cultivars onto one tree last year, and hopefully I'll have some fruit to show you before too long. Merry Citrus!