Sorting out Mandarin oranges - tangerines, clementines, satsumas, etc.

Satsuma orange cake

Just noticed that the satsumas have arrived in the store, which triggers an annual question - What is the difference among Tangerines, Clementines, Mandarins, Tangelos, Mineolas, Satsumas. etc.? So, if any of you are also curious, here's a brief primer:

The master category that these fruits fall into is Mandarin oranges or "Mandarins." Compared to oranges in general, Mandarins tend to be smaller in size, have a looser peel, and are less tart. They originated in the Far East and were originally exported through North Africa, where they were all tagged with the name "tangerine," from the city of Tangiers. However, the name "tangerine" has become less generic and is now usually applied to only one kind of Mandarin orange as stores have come to market the different cultivars - so while all tangerines are Mandarins, not all Mandarins are tangerines.

Here are the kinds of Mandarins you're likely to run into:

Tangerines - usually one of two varieties, Fairchild or Darby. Not as sweet as the others, they also have seeds and slightly tougher peels. 

Clementines are seedless (usually) and honey-sweet. The Mandarins branded as "Cuties" and "Sweeties" are clementines. They're easier to peel than tangerines (though not as easy as satsumas), hence their popularity for children.

Satsumas are the Mandarin oranges that are most often canned. They're seedless and the easiest to peel due to a leathery skin. However, they're also the tenderist and most prone to shipping damage, which is why it is harder to find them fresh as compared to clementines or tangerines. Similar in taste to clementines, though some regard them as sweeter.

Tangelos are a cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine. They're especially juicy and lack grapefruit's acidity. Minneolas and Orlandos are types of tangelos. The Minneola is particularly distintinctive due to the knob at one end; they are sometimes called Honeybells.

And now that's all cleared up, here's a Satsuma Orange Cake from Leite's Culinaria (though you can use any kind of Mandarin orange). Photo courtesy of Leite's Culinaria.

1 Comment

  • boardingace  on  12/6/2013 at 2:43 PM

    Very cool to know...thank-you for the information!

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