Produce Buzz Fruit/Veggie of the Week:
Cara Cara Oranges
Probably one of the few things that is really, really awesome about winter time is the marvelous variety of delicious citrus fruits that are in season, plentiful and inexpensive. There is nothing like a fresh cut orange adorning your breakfast plate, ready to explode with flavor across your palate, famished and dry from a long winter’s nap.
There are so many different varieties of oranges that are exceptional in their own right, yet there is one that not only has exceptional flavor, but also delights visually. It is the Cara Cara orange and we think it is so nice they just had to name it twice!
This fruit is an apparent mutation rather than a deliberate hybrid from a navel orange. It accidentally appeared on a tree of the Washington variety navel in Venezuela over 40 years ago. It’s other parent is not absolutely known but is believed to be the Brazilian Bahia Navel Orange. If so, that makes our fruit of the week a great example of international cooperation and a cross cultural success.
It made its way into the United States in the 1980’s but it’s only been recently that it has transcended from a rare specialty item to more of a mainstream variety. That means that you should not have too much trouble finding these delightfully sweet and colorful fruits. They begin harvesting in November and usually are around until April. But January through March are the peak shipping times and best for optimal flavor. They are grown in the usual areas for citrus in the U.S., California, Texas and Florida.
Many consider the Cara Cara to be the sweetest of all navel oranges. Others think their flavor is closer to a tangerine. And then those with really refined palates have identified notes of rose petal, cherry and even blackberry. But don’t despair if you can’t find those flavors when you try it. You are assured that your palate, no matter how refined, will be delighted. Visually they are just as delightful. Cut them open to reveal a deep pink or bright red color. They can’t be beat as a garnish on any plate with the reddish pink contrasting with the bright orange skin.
When you look for them in the grocery store, from the outside you will not be able to tell the difference between them and a regular navel. Look carefully for signage for them or ask your store’s produce manager. Or if you are into numbers, that little sticker on them will have a PLU number of 3110 and the organic version will be 93110. That same sticker should have the name on it too, but just remember you are not seeing double. It’s Cara Cara, and yes, it’s so nice they named it twice.
Here’s info on the delicious Cara Cara navel from the company best known for oranges, Sunkist.