(Citrus reticulata— Family Rutaceae)
Mandarin or Tangarine
mandarine (French), Mandarine (German), mandarino (Italian), mandarina (Spanish/Portuguese/Romanian/Bulgarian), mandarin (Dutch/Norwegian/Swedish/Russian), mandariini (Finnish), mandarynka (Polish), mandarin (Croatian), mantarini (Greek), mandalina (Turkish), som khieo waan (Thai), jeruk kaprok (Indonesian), naranjita (Philippines), xin hui gan (Chinese), mikan (Japanese)
Botanically, the mandarin is the simplest as all of them are put together in one species. The name was originally no more than a nickname given to a small, loose-skinned orange-like fruit brought to England from China in 1805. The word also denotes a Chinese official or a form of the Chinese language.
However, “mandarin” did not come from a Chinese word, since theirs is “kwan”, but came into the English language through the Portuguese term of the Malay word for counsellor (mantri) itself derived through the Hindi from the Sanskrit “mantrin”, also meaning councellor and based on the root word man – which ironically, means to think.
Despite the strange origin, “mandarin” stuck and became the general term used for a wide range of similar fruits.
The word tangerine is less useful because it has a more restricted, and different, meaning in Britain and the US, where the name originated. In the US, the name refers to dark-coloured kinds; while in Britain, the name is used for an old-fashioned Mediterranean variety.
Mediterranean mandarins are typically light in colour, with a mild, but good, flavour. They do tend to be seedy and do not keep very well. These are the fruits which the British, not the Americans, call tangerines. The tangerine term generally refers to types with red-orange and “zipper” skin.
The fruit was introduced to Europe via the Moroccan seaport of Tangier, which led to the name “tangerine”, now used interchangably with mandarin. Tangarines almost certainly came from China, and were brought to Italy in Roman times by Arab traders and taken to England from Canton in 1805.
Like oranges, they were regarded as a symbol of luxury and prosperity. They are now grown throught North Africa and the Mediterranean. The interchangeable use of the names lead many to believe that there are many varieties, but all are essentially the same.
Japan grows about one-quarter of the world’s crop, and exports a frost-resistant variety called the Satsuma mandarin. Those tangerines grown in the US and South Africa tend to have a deeper orange colour to their skin and pulp than those grown elsewhere.
Mandarins and tangerines come from small, thorny trees that bear simple leaves and orange-like blossoms. The fruits resemble slightly flattened oranges with loose orange skin and have a fragrant aroma.
Not only do the skins peel easily, but the segments also come apart with ease. Although the flesh is sweet and juicy, it does contain a high number of seeds. The word reticulata means ‘netted’, in reference to the fibrous strands of pith located under the loose skin. All mandarins and their hybrids are extremely good sources of Vitamin C and beta-carotene.
Some mandarin varieties include the following:
Clementine is the smallest of the tangarines, and first grown in Algeria by Father Clement Rodier. It is a cross between the Mediterranean mandarin and a sour orange. It was introduced into Florida by the USDA in 1909, and reached California by 1914. It is a oblate, medium-size fruit with a bright orange skin and few, if any, seeds. Its peel is thick and slightly puffy, with a deep orange, glossy look. The flesh separates easily into eight to twelve juicy segments that have a flavour reminiscent of apricot nectar. Because of this, they are the most popular variety and sometimes sold with their leaves attached, which makes them even more attractive. When the Clementine was crossed with pollen of the Orlando tangelo, the tasty hybrids Robinson, Osceola, and Lee were produced. The Clementine was introduced into Spain from Algeria in 1925 and where dozens of varieties were produced, with the Fina being the most popular. Other Spanish Clementine varieties include the Hernandina, a 1966 mutation of the Fina and the Esbal, another 1966 mutation of the Fina that appeared in Sagunto, Spain.
Cleopatra, Spice Mandarin, Ponki is a mandarin hybrid originally from India by way of Jamaica and introduced into Florida about 1888. It is a small fruit with an odd oblate shape and dark orange-red peel that easily pulls away revealing six to eight juicy, apricot-coloured segments. The flesh, however, is crowded with seeds, usually eight or more, and studded with green cotyledons, the first leaves produced by the embryo of a flowering plant. The fruit remains on the tree until the next crop matures, making the whole tree almost continuously attractive and therefore, frequently used as an ornamental. The rootstock of the Cleopatra is among the most frequently used in Japan and Florida and comprises about 10% of all new Florida citrus tree growth.
Dancy Tangerine originated in China and was introduced to Florida from Morocco. It is a superior fruit, both for pulp and juice, but it does have many seeds. It is a reddish-orange, sweet, with a tart plum-like flavour, and is the leading tangerine in US production, grown mainly in Florida. Originally called a “kid-glove” orange, it was renamed for Colonel G. L. Dancy, who cultivated it at his grove in Orange Mills, Florida, about 1867.
Dweet is the result of an experiment by H.B. Frost of the University of California, Riverside. It is a tangor that grows well in California’s central valley. Most consider it a cross between a Mediterranean sweet orange and a Dancy mandarin. The fruit is of medium size, oblate shape, with a light orange rind. It is difficult to peel, but has a rich aromatic oil. The juice, as well as the seeds, are abundant in the pulp, which has a complex plum aftertaste.
Fairchild is a mandarin hybrid officially; but, in actuality, it is a tangelo hybrid of Clementine mandarin and the Orlando tangelo. Although it tends to have more seeds than most mandarins, it is always rich in juice. A medium-sized, oblate fruit, the Fairchild has a slightly pebbly skin and a very, firm deep-orange flesh. It is good either raw or cooked as it has a distinctive tomato-like aroma. In 1964, the USDA introduced the Fairchild to Indio, California, in the hope of cultivating a fruit with the quality of a Clementine over a long, hot summer. It is harvested from December through March.
Fremont is a mandarin hybrid introduced by the California Citrus Experimentation Station. Its deep orange rind is medium thick, but easy to peel. It is a delicate fruit, with up to twelve segments, but as many seeds. Its bright reddish-orange flesh has a rich, sweet taste compared to that of the Clementine. The Freemont, grown in Turkey, is able to sustain its abundant juiciness for more than three months after maturing on the tree.
Honey is a mandarin hybrid produced from the King Mandarin and the Willowleaf, accomplished by H.B. Frost of the University of California Research Center, in Riverside. It is a small mandarin, with a glossy, golden-orange rind and a flame orange flesh that can house up to twelve segments and many seeds. The flesh is easy to pull apart and very juicy.
King Mandarin originated in Indochina and is large, with a thick, bumpy skin.
Lee is another mandarin hybrid, a cross between the Clementine mandarin and the Orlando tangelo, made by F. C. Gardner and J. Bellows in 1942. It is a delicate fruit with an extremely limited season – November and December. The Lee is oblate, with a deep orange rind and a large number of seeds to its twelve to fourteen segments. It is best juiced for fresh consumption or for cooking.
Mediterranean Mandarins (tangerines to the British) were the main ones found in Europe, but now they have been replaced by the satsumas and clementines.
Minneola, Honeybelle is a tangelo hybrid formed from the Duncan grapefruit and the Dancy tangerine, and can be recognized by the distinctive bulge at its stalk end. It was produced in Florida by the USDA and released in 1931. The fruit is large, with a necked shape and a deep red-orange rind that is easy to peel. Its twelve firm segments have few, if any, seeds and is easy to separate. The juice is tart, but with a honey-like flavour and prized for its quality.
Murcott, Murcott Honey Orange, Red, Big Red is a tangor believed to be the work of Dr. Walter Swingle and his associates at the USDA nursery. The original tree was sent in 1913 to R.D. Hoyt in Safety Harbor (Tampa Bay), Florida, for trials. In 1922, Hoyt gave a budwood to his nephew, Charles Murcott Smith, who proceeded to grow several trees. Eventually, the orange took his name; and, by 1928, it was known as the Honey Murcott. Large scale production did not begin until 1952. Because this fruit has such a thin peel, it is clipped from the tree rather than pulled. The glossy smooth rind clings to the pulp, but it is still easily removed when fresh. The tender flesh houses twelve orange-coloured segments with numerous seeds, but there is also an abundance of reddish-orange juice with a mango-like sweetness. California produces a fruit similar to the Murcott called the “Honey”, which is smaller, but available at the same time of the year as the Murcott.
Natsumikan, Natsudaidai is a mandarin hybrid that was discovered in 1740 in the Yamaguchi prefecture of Japan. It is the result of a probable union between the pomelo or sour orange and a mandarin. Consequently, it is usually too acidic to eat. This large, rough, and unevenly textured fruit is easy to peel, revealing twelve segments and about thirty seeds! The Japanese call this their “summer grapefruit” or “orange”. The original tree is believed to be still alive today.
Nocatee is a tangelo, being a hybrid of any mandarin and a grapefruit or pomelo. The first known tangelo was made by Dr. Walter T. Swingle of the USDA in 1897. It ranges in size, sometimes looking like a sweet orange, while others are as big as grapefruit. It is round with a tapered neck, a characteristic of the Minneola. This tangelo is rich and tangy, with strong grapefruit flavours. The pulp is white with some seeds and separates into twelve segments. The rind is thick, yellow, but easy to peel.
Orlando is a tangelo variety with skin that clings tightly to the fruit. A cross between a grapefruit and an orange, it is named after the place where it was developed in Florida. Another is the Ortanique.
Ortanique is a large eight-inch Jamaican variety, which is also known as a “honey tangerine” because of its delicious sweetness. Ortaniques are a hybrid tangelo variety which can be found growing on the same trees as tangerines or oranges. It has a peculiar mustard-coloured rind that is irregularly marked with brown specks. Although very hard, the rind is easily separable, and it has a pleasant “Seville orange” fragrance. The flesh is pale orange and relatively acidic.
Page is a mandarin hybrid of the Clementine and the Minneola tangelo. While it retains the tangelo’s obovoid shape and rind characteristics, its flesh is a lusciuos red-orange, separating into twelve segments, with some seeds. It has a rather long season from October through February; but it is, without a doubt, one of the best for juice, having a canteloupe sweetness.
Ponkan, Bantangas (Philippines), Nagpur Suntra (India) is a mandarin, and the most ubiquitous of all of them. It flourishes in locales as diverse as southern China, Formosa, Brazil, and India. Large for a mandarin, the Ponkan is harvested from December through January. It has an oblate shape, with up to eight seeds, but is rich and aromatic with a salmon-like colour to its flesh.
Sampson is another tangelo hybrid, created by Dr. Walter Swingle in 1897. It is a cross between a Dancy mandarin and a grapefruit that is actually more of an ornamental than one for eating. Its thin yellow rind is difficult to peel, and its pulp is acidic with many seeds. It does have a close resemblance to the C. paradisi (grapefruit or pomelo).
Satsuma, Unshiu Makan is a mandarin brought to Japan from China in the mid-16th century as a chance seedling and where it grows well in that country’s characteristically cold citrus areas. Except for the Yuzu, the tree is more tolerant of cold than other citrus trees. It was later named for the former feudal province of Kagoshima of southern Kyushu, Japan. Satsuma mandarins are available in more than 100 varieties in Japan and in North America. They are larger than the tangerines. Some botanists now assign them to a separate species, C. unshiu. The satsuma is sweet and not as acidic, but rather has a tropical fruit flavour. Its rich orange-coloured flesh easily separates into ten or twelve seedless segments. The most popular variety is the Owari, a easy-peeling seedless mandarin that is not as acidic as the Clementine and considered to be one of the best mandarins available. The tiny segments commonly sold canned, and called mandarin oranges, are usually satsumas.
Sunburst is a mandarin hybrid bred from fifteen different seedlings of the Robinson and Osceola varieties. It is a deep orange fruit, with an abundance of juice; but the rind is a chore to remove as it is brittle and paper-thin. When seen in a cross-section, it resembles the aureole of the sun, only with twelve seedy segments and hence the name, Sunburst. Its deep colour is the result of a high sugar content and high acidity.
Tangelo (C. reticulata x C. paradisi) is a cross between a mandarin and a pomelo or grapefruit. It looks rather like a large orange with a distinctive knob, or neck, on the stem end and has the easy-peeling qualities of a mandarin. Minneolas have a tart, honey-sweet flavour, few seeds, and a deep orange-red skin. Once considered a crossbreed, the tangelo has become so common that they are now incorporated into the C. reticulat species. Tangelos are not commonly grown in California ,but are produced commercially and in home gardens in Florida. Its season runs from December to April; but, if left too long on the tree, the crop next year will be light. The best known of the large, grapefruit-size tangelos is the Ugli fruit.
Tangor is a cross between an orange and a tangerine, and tends to be of an intermediate flavour, size, and shape of its parents. Similar to the mandarin, a tangor does not have the typical flattened shape. The best known is the Temple, also known as Royal Mandarin, which looks like an overgrown tangerine. Named after a Florida grower on whose plantation it first appeared about 1910, it is sweet, slightly spicy, and very juicy. It is also seedy and hard to peel; but it does have a distinctively darker-orange skin. Originally bred in Jamaica, it is now grown mainly in Florida and Israel. The Murcott is another tangor. It has a thin peel and reddish-orange flesh and taste something like a mango. To some, the King mandarin (or King of Siam) and the Clementine are both considered to be tangors.
Temple is a tangor cross between a mandarin and an orange. It was originally discovered by a fruit buyer on assignment in Jamaica who was purchasing oranges after a severe Florida freeze. He sent the temple budwood to several friends in Winter Park, Florida, who later shared it with others. Eventually, the fruit was brought to the attention of W.C. Temple, the former manager of the Florida Citrus Exchange. Temple cultivated and began selling the fruit in 1919. However, the trees were not extensively planted until after 1940. The Temple’s thin rind is easy to peel, and has a distinctive sent to its oil. The pulp is a light orange, which is a stark contrast to the deeper orange colour of the rind. The flesh is seedy ,but with a spicy, tangy flavour. Many people find the fruit appealing, but too acidic.
Ugli Fruit, Unique is a mandarin hybrid so named after a Canadian produce market described it as being ugly. A Jamaican exporter, G.G.R. Sharp holds the copyright and trademark for the name “Ugli”. The fruit is the result of a cross between a grapefruit, orange, and mandarin. Although unattractive, the fruit is quite succulent. It has a baggy, thick, light orange rind that is easy to peel and smells of citron. The yellow-orange flesh is tender and sweet evoking both a sweet orange and tangerine taste with a hint of honey or pineapple, if grown in the tropics. As many as sixteen large segments surround its hollow core, a characteristic which adds to the fruit’s lack of density. Nevertheless, it can still weigh up to two pounds when grown in its native Jamaica. When the fruit is produced in a subtropical climate like that of South Africa or New Zealand, its sweetness disappears.
Wekiwa is a mandarin hybrid called a tangelolo. A novelty fruit that resulted as a cross between a grapefruit and a Sampson tangelo hybrid, it is also known as a pink tangelo or Lavender Gem. It can be used instead of grapefruit in any recipe as its yields a tangy, but sweet, taste. The fruit has a yellow rind. The red blush to the pulp is easily separated into twelve segments with few seeds.
Wilkins, Wilkings is the smallest commercially grown tangerine, being only about two inches in diameter. It is exported from California, Morocco, Brazil, and Spain.
Willowleaf, Mediterranean is the first mandarin to reach the Mediterranean from China about the year 1805. It was then taken to England and on to Malta and Sicily before reaching Italy. Its light orange rind is easy to peel, and the flame-orange pulp is separated into twelve sinewy segments; but it is tender and juicy although very seedy. The flavour has an apricot taste, and its rind has a distinctive oil that is used by the world’s perfume industry.