Tangerines: The Delicious Little Fruit

The Tangerine is one of the most popular varieties of the citrus fruit commonly known as the orange. What many people may not realize is that the tangerine is actually an offshoot of the mandarin family of oranges.

Tangerines are grown in Arizona, California, Florida and Texas, and their best seasons are November through January in the United States and North America. Tangerines are smaller than most oranges, peel more easily and are usually less tart or sour in taste than the average orange. In fact, most people love tangerines for their uniquely sweet taste.

The tangerine has a long history. Its name comes from Tangiers in Morocco, the port where the fruit was first shipped to Europe and Florida in the United States in the 1800s. But prior to that, tangerines had been cultivated in China and Japan for over 3,000 years. Tangerines on the Italian Mediterranean are very popular, but the fruit also grows abundantly in Japan, southern China, India, the East Indies and in Australia.

There are also many different varieties and hybrids of the tangerine. The tangelo is a cross between a tangerine and grapefruit or pomelo (a large citrus fruit related to the grapefruit), and its name is a combination of tangerine and pomelo. The Minneola tangelo is one of the most popular tangerine varieties, known for its juiciness and mild, sweet flavor and easily recognized by the little knob formation at its stem end. The Clementine, which is also known as the Algerian tangerine, is a small, sweet-tasting and seedless tangerine that comes from North Africa and Spain. The tangor is a cross between a tangerine and an orange and is also known as a temple orange or royal mandarin. While it is no longer as widely grown, the Dancy tangerine, whose peak season is December, is commonly known as the Christmas Orange since children would often receive them in their Christmas stockings.

The tangerine is a great source of vitamin C, beta-carotene and folate and also contains vitamins B1, B2 and B3, as well as potassium and magnesium. Tangerines are most popularly consumed by peeling and eating out of hand, but it can also be juiced or used in salads, main dishes or desserts. Tangerines can be stored in the refrigerator for up to seven days.

When going to the market to shop for tangerines, be sure to choose the fruit with glossy, deep orange skins. They should be firm to slightly soft and heavy for their size with pebbly skins and no deep grooves, although small green patches near the stems can be disregarded.