You know the saying, "It's what's on the inside that counts"? Well, that couldn't be more true when it comes to Cara Cara oranges. From the outside, these citrus beauties look like your run-of-the-mill, bright-skinned navel oranges. Cut them open, though, and you'll be pleasantly surprised.
What Exactly Are Cara Cara Oranges?
Cara Cara oranges are a type of navel orange. They're a cross between two navels and were first discovered in the mid-70s in Venezuela. Now, they're largely grown in California and reach their peak season between December and April.
Cara Caras have the same round shape and bright orange rind as traditional navels. What really sets these oranges apart is what's on the inside! Cara Cara oranges have distinct pinkish-red and orange flesh. It's not just their beautiful color that makes them stand out — they have a remarkable taste that goes right along with it. Compared to traditional navels, Cara Caras are sweeter, slightly tangy, and less acidic, with a hint of red fruit, like cranberry or blackberry. And if that's not enough, they're seedless, too.
Traditional Navel Orange (left) and Cara Cara Orange (right)
Buying and Storing Cara Cara Oranges
While other navel oranges can vary in size, cara caras are all generally medium-size fruits. Choose oranges that are firm, shiny, and heavy for their size. Avoid pieces that have soft spots and blemishes.
As with other citrus fruits, store Cara Cara oranges in a cool spot. Kept on the counter, they'll last three to four days, so you're better off storing them in the refrigerator where they'll last up to two weeks.
Ways to Eat Cara Cara Oranges
Eat Cara Cara oranges just as you would other types of navel oranges! Peeling away the rind and eating them section by section, blending them into smoothies or a fresh-squeezed glass of juice, and making citrus curd are just a few of my favorite ways to use Cara Caras. They also make a beautiful addition to salads.
Have you ever tried Cara Cara oranges? What's your favorite way to eat them?
Try these recipes using cara cara oranges!
Updated from a post originally published in December 2009.
(Image credits: Kelli Dunn)