I’m not sure how I got on this citrus-post jag, but I’ve got a pressing reason to post another: I just discovered blood oranges are grown in Japan!
I’ve long been a fan of these fancy deep-red oranges — they’re beautiful in salads and make a mean glass of fresh-squeezed juice for a Sunday morning. Every spring I’d buy a few bags of imports from California, which would show at National Azabu Supermarket in Tokyo for about 580 yen for five. But this year National is more or less closed for reconstruction, and anyway it feels increasingly irresponsible, in terms of carbon footprint, to buy food from so far away. So I was delighted when I spotted locally grown blood oranges at Mitsukoshi in Ebisu:
Delighted, that was, until I saw the price tag: 980 yen for three little bitty oranges! For those of you who think in dollars (always a bad idea in Japan, but downright stupid at current exchange rates), that’s more than $12 or four bucks per orange. Per little bitty orange!
I almost missed them in the store because they were labeled as タロッコオレンジ (“tarroko orenji”）, which meant nothing to me. I stopped only because I recognized — with joy! –the dark red meat of the cut-up pieces set out for samplings. I bought the bag partly so I’d have a label to look up when I got home. It turns out there are three types of blood orange — the Moro, the Sanguinello , and the Torocco. So that explains the funny name in Japanese but I wondered why they bothered: plenty of people are familiar with “blood orange” as it’s pronounced in Japanese (buraddo orenji ブラッドオレンジ). Italian restaurants in Japan often have processed blood orange juice on the menu.
Anyway, my bag of tarroko orenji were grown in Ehime Prefecture. They even have a modest presence on video on YouTube (sorry, no subtitles). In the video a grower explains that because of global warming Ehime now has the same average temperatures as Italy. He says the domestic blood oranges are still very rare but growers are doing their best to expand production.
Not to nitpick, but throughout the video he refers to the fruit as “blood oranges.”