Cara Cara oranges, are a variety of navel oranges. They were first discovered in 1976 at Hacienda Cara Cara in Venezuela and introduced in California during the 1980s. This special orange is juicy, low in acid, seedless, and, some say, has a berry like flavor. The name “cara cara” means “beloved” in Italian. When selecting cara cara navel oranges, make sure the fruit is firm, heavy for its size, and has a pleasant sweet smell.
Scars or imperfect coloring do not reveal anything about the fruit’s flavor. When storing, keep in a cool, well-ventilated place. They can last 3-4 days in room temperature and up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
Like other naval oranges, cara cara oranges have a partially developed fruit enclosed inside the larger orange. A good orange will feel heavy for its size, indicating that it is very juicy. The season for these oranges peaks at the height of winter, meaning that they are available primarily in December and January in the Northern Hemisphere. Unlike the blood orange, another orange with a distinctive pigment, the rind of the cara cara does not betray the color of the interior, and is typically a bright, glossy orange.
The flavor is more complex than most navel varieties and has been described as evoking notes of cherry, rose petal, orange, and blackberry.
While you can get oranges year round in the grocery store, and even at many farmers markets, Winter is the peek season for California’s cara cara navel oranges, and many other citrus – like blood oranges, pomelos, mandarins, and oro blanco grapefruits. These brightly colored beauties are bursting with vitamin C just when the cooler and damp weather has us shut up indoors and more susceptible to getting sick. Just one Cara Cara orange provides 150% of the daily recommended value of vitamin C and 30% of vitamin A! Because our bodies cannot store vitamin C, it is important for us to regularly consume it.
These oranges can be used in a variety of ways. Their slightly berry-like, sweet flavor tastes delicious when eaten alone and in fruit salads, and the oranges can also be juiced, eaten with yogurt or granola, or cooked into jams, jellies, and other spreads.
Oranges are also an important source of fiber, especially when eaten whole. The cara cara orange is also a good source of folate and potassium, and a natural source of Lycopene, the disease-fighting antioxidant that may be helpful in preventing some cancers and protecting against cardiovascular disease. Lycopene, in fact, gives the fruit its dark, rich coloring. On a rare occasion, the trees will yield multicolored-leafed twigs instead of their usual green leaves. If the twigs are left to grow and fruit, they can sometimes produce fruits with a striped rind.
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