Red Navel Gazing

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By Chris Mittelstaedt

Citrus season is in full swing now, with all sorts of farm-fresh specialty fruit coming in. We’re seeing everything from Navel Oranges to Satsumas to Clementines to Ruby Red Grapefruits to Cara Caras. We’re also cycling in Murcotts, Minneolas, and a host of other citrus varieties as well. If you don’t recognize them, go to to view your crate’s contents by region (West, Southwest, Central, or East), and we’ll show you what’s inside. Now—about those Cara Caras:

I once asked my neighborhood grocery clerk if he had Cara Caras. He looked at me a bit skeptically and said no, then suggested that if I check the classifieds section of the paper, maybe I could find something I’d like to “drive-a drive-a.” So it is with Cara Cara Navel Oranges—not a lot of people know about this specialty citrus. Rumor has it that this pink-fleshed citrus was found by a farmer walking through his orchard in South America. Citrus, pear, and apple trees have a tendency to throw out new varieties once in a while—sort of a genetic hiccup called a “sport.” Cara Caras are supposedly a sport from a Washington Navel Orange tree. They’re also called Red Navels but are not to be confused with Blood Oranges, which are deeper in color.

Cara Caras are generally a low-acid citrus with a taste that hints of sweet cherry. To my palate, this fruit seems smooth and sweet without the acid bite you sometimes find in other oranges. One medium-sized Cara Cara has approximately 70 calories, 16 grams of carbohydrates (5 percent of RDA), 3 grams of fiber (12 percent RDA), 1 gram of protein, 6 percent vitamin A, 120 percent vitamin C, and 6 percent calcium. Its season is short—winter only.

Remember, Cara Caras look almost exactly like regular Navels, so don’t be surprised if you think you’re cutting into a Navel Orange and find the inside a red-pink instead. Heck—take the opportunity to impress coworkers with your awareness of this fruit, and maybe even make some jokes. I’ll start—Question: “How does a Cara Cara get going in the morning?” Answer: “It peels out.” Bada-bing! Thank you. You’re too kind. No, really.

Enjoy & Be Fruitful!


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