Tangerine is a variety of Mandarin orange. The mandarin orange is native to southeastern Asia. The name tangerine comes from Tangier, Morocco, the port from which the first tangerines were shipped to Europe.
Tangerines were cultivated for more than 3,000 years in China and Japan, but did not reach Europe and North America until the 19th century. It reached America in the mid-19th century when the Italian consul at New Orleans planted it on the consulate grounds. From there it was brought to Florida some time between 1840 and 1894 by Major Atway.
Today it is cultivated in subtropical regions worldwide, especially southern Europe and the southern United States.
The tree is smaller than other orange trees, with slender twigs and lance-shaped leaves. The fruit is slightly flattened at each end and has a loose, reddish orange peel.
Easily separated segments of tender, juicy, richly flavored pulp are abundant in vitamin C. Oil from the fragrant skin is a characteristic ingredient in several flavorings and liqueurs.
Depending on the variety, Mandarin oranges are in season from November through June, with peak season being December and January.
Select tangerines that are unblemished and heavy for their size. Avoid those with cuts, soft spots or mold. Bright color really isn’t a good indication of sweetness.
Some tangerines naturally have green patches on the rind, even when fully ripe. They may be stored in a cool, dark spot for a few days, but ideally should be refrigerated to extend shelf life up to two weeks.
There are three major types of tangerines from the Western growing areas: tangerines, Mandarins and tangelos.
Tangerines: Available around Thanksgiving, sometimes sold with stems and leaves attached. These include the Fairchild and Dancy varieties.
Mandarins: Have a light orange color and a complex, sweet flavor. The Satsuma, Honey and Royal are the three major Mandarin varieties.
Tangelos: A cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine. They are noted for their juiciness and mild, sweet flavor. Orlandos and Minneolas are popular Tangelo varieties.
Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with the Hall County Extension Service. Contact: 770-535-8290.