"There are no mandarin thieves, because you can smell them coming!"
-Traditional West African adage
As a child, I referred to all small, orange, easy-to-peel citrus fruits as tangerines. I grew up in the Middle East, where tangerines, originally from Tangiers, Morocco, are a common and popular citrus variety. Just the smell of a freshly peeled tangerine takes me back to sitting by my mother's side, waiting impatiently for her to pass the segments out to us kids.
"All tangerines are mandarins, but not all mandarins are tangerines" Aaron explained to me one day, after I called a bag of Cuties a "bag of tangerines".
"Really? Tell me more." My interest was piqued.
"Well, there are over 200 different varieties of mandarins, including tangerines, clementines and satsumas. The term "mandarin", or Citrus Reticula, is a citrus category name. It is simply citrus that is small, orange, segmented and easy to peel. In fact, the original three citrus fruits are the mandarin, the citron and the pomelo. The sweet orange came from the mandarin and the pomelo."
"Interesting! Why don't we ever see all these different mandarin varieties at the grocery store?"
"Well, the Japanese satsuma, although cold hardy, seedless, and easy to peel, also bruises easily. That does not lend well to being packed, stacked and shipped. Satsumas are best if you can grow them or find them locally. Like the Owari. Those have such great, tart flavor."
"So what are the "Cutie" or "Halo" varieties, then?" I asked. Who knew mandarins could be so interesting?
"Those are either a variety of Clementine or Murcott, depending on the season. They are not always the same varieties. Clementines and Murcotts are generally sweet, seedless and easy to peel. Not as tart as a satsuma."
"Now that you mention it, tangerines do seem to have a deeper orange and are more oblate than the other mandarins. I do love the flavor of the Dancy Tangerine. I suppose because it reminds me of my childhood." I mused.
"Well, then you might like the Minneola Tangelo," Aaron suggested. "In Florida, they are called Honey Bells, because their shape. It is a Dancy tangerine crossed with a pomelo. And I know how much you love pomelos, too!"
"I do! It sounds like there are lots more mandarin varieties out there to try!"
"There are! The mandarin has been hybridized with all kinds of citrus varieties to create new varieties. Like the Indio mandarinquat, which is a mandarin crossed with a kumquat. I plan to grow them all!"
Yep, that sounds like a citrus grower to me!