A brief explanation of the stages of Tarocco blood orange development, from the farm in Sicily where the oranges for Sanpellegrino’s drinks are found.
The citrus fruits which grow in Sicily have a unique taste that comes from the island’s exceptional volcanic soil and Mediterranean climatic conditions.
The exact stages of citrus fruit development vary depending on location which influences temperature fluctuations and soil and also maturity of the plants. The following general timings are for the Tarocco blood orange at the Arcoria farm in Paternò, Sicily, where some of the oranges for Sanpellegrino Italian Sparkling Drinks are grown.
Blossoming: April - June
Between April and May, the citrus groves fill up with beautiful white coloured orange blossom. During these months the thousands of green buds open into flowers transforming the 110 hectares into white fields filled with the most wonderful sweet intense and fresh citrus aroma.
Pollination occurs naturally, but to facilitate this process each spring the farmer releases thousands of bees into the citrus grove.
For every flower that falls from the tree, a citrus fruit is lost forever. Only 3-4% of flowers remain by the end of June, when the now yellowed orange blossoms fall off the trees, leaving the small pistils which will require another 7-8 months to mature into oranges.
Maturation and harvest: September - January
The fruit grows and matures over the summer and by autumn is starting to mature. In the final stages of maturation the flesh of fruit begins to turn its distinctive red colour due to the synthesis and accumulation of anthocyanins.
The synthesis of these natural pigments are stimulated by the natural daily temperature fluctuations that occur during the autumn and winter in Sicily. The area around Catania on the slopes of Mount Etna is home to the widest temperature variations during this period and so produce blood oranges with the deepest pigmentation.
The fruits are fully mature in December and January, and at this point they are harvested by hand according to tradition to ensure that they retain their wonderful and unique flavour.
Within a few months the trees are budding again, ready to produce more flowers, and so the cycle begins again.