The pink-fleshed Cara Cara navel orange may resemble a pallid blood orange, but it's different in origin, chemistry and taste. It's pigmented with lycopenes, the same substances that color pink and red grapefruit. On the outside, the Cara Cara resembles a regular navel, with a hint of pink blush. On the inside, it's a gorgeous deep salmon. The taste is sweet, with delightful tutti-frutti overtones. Oddly, the juice is not pink but yellow-orange.
The variety originated as a sport on a limb of a Washington Navel at the Hacienda Cara Cara in Venezuela in the early 1970s.
It was first planted in Florida early this decade and marketed as a "red navel" in the last three years. As grown in Florida, however, the Cara Cara is pale, watery and insipid.
Growers in the San Joaquin Valley have planted several hundred acres, but the first crop, this season, yielded only tiny quantities. Although few fruits remain from this harvest, the Welburn Farm stand at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market should have some organic Cara Caras for sale this Saturday. When production increases, the season will run from November to April.