Mandarin orange

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Mandarin orange
Mandarin Oranges (Citrus Reticulata).jpg
Scientific classification
Species:C. reticulata
Binomial name
Citrus reticulata
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Mandarin orange
Mandarin Oranges (Citrus Reticulata).jpg
Scientific classification
Species:C. reticulata
Binomial name
Citrus reticulata

The Mandarin orange, also known as the mandarin or mandarine (both lower-case), is a small citrus tree (Citrus reticulata) with fruit resembling other oranges. Mandarin oranges are usually eaten plain or in fruit salads. Specifically reddish-orange mandarin cultivars can be marketed as tangerines, but this is not a botanical classification. When exporting began, local Mandarin oranges were named after their port of origin.[1]

The tree is more drought-tolerant than the fruit. The mandarin is tender and is damaged easily by cold. It can be grown in tropical and subtropical areas.

According to molecular studies,[2] the mandarin, the citron, the pomelo, and the papeda were the ancestors of all other citrus species and their varieties, through breeding or natural hybridization; mandarins are therefore all the more important as the only sweet fruit among the parental species.


The mandarin orange is a variety of the orange family. Cultivars and crosses between the original mandarin and other citrus fruits include:

Canned and peeled mandarin orange segments
Kinnow, a variety of Mandarin orange developed by Dr H.B. Frost
Closeup of mandarin tree

The mandarin is easily peeled with the fingers, starting at the thick rind covering the depression at the top of the fruit, and can be easily split into even segments without squirting juice. This makes it convenient to eat, as utensils are not required to peel or cut the fruit.

Canned mandarin segments are peeled to remove the white pith prior to canning; otherwise, they turn bitter. Segments are peeled using a chemical process. First, the segments are scalded in hot water to loosen the skin; then they are bathed in a lye solution, which digests the albedo and membranes. Finally, the segments undergo several rinses in plain water.

Biological characteristics[edit]

Citrus fruits are usually self-fertile (needing only a bee to move pollen within the same flower) or parthenocarpic (not needing pollination and therefore seedless, such as the satsuma).

Blossoms from the Dancy cultivar are one exception. They are self-sterile, and therefore must have a pollinator variety to supply pollen, and a high bee population to make a good crop. The fruit is oblate.

Medicinal uses[edit]

Mandarin orange peel (cold pressed) essential oil in a clear glass vial

In traditional Chinese medicine, the dried peel of the fruit is used in the regulation of ch'i, and also used to treat abdominal distension, to enhance digestion, and to reduce phlegm.[6][verification needed] Mandarins have also been used in ayurveda (traditional medicine of India).[7][verification needed]

Production volume[edit]

Tangerines, mandarins, clementines, satsumas
Top 20 producers in 2011 (1000 tonnes)
 People's Republic of China12,482
 South Korea681
 United States596
 Republic of China197
All other1,582
World total26,030
UN Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO)

The "Clemenules" (or "Nules" accounts for the great majority of clementines produced in the world. Spain alone has over 200,000 acres (800 km2), producing fruit between November and January. Mandarins marketed as tangerines are usually Dancy, Sunburst or Murcott (Honey) cultivars.

Cultural significance[edit]

California mandarins

During Chinese New Year, Mandarin oranges and tangerines are considered traditional symbols of abundance and good fortune. During the two-week celebration, they are frequently displayed as decoration and presented as gifts to friends, relatives, and business associates.

Mandarin oranges, particularly Satsumas from Japan, are a Christmas tradition in Canada, as well as the United States and Russia. They are commonly purchased in 5- or 10-pound boxes, individually wrapped in soft green paper, and given in Christmas stockings. This custom goes back to the 1880s, when Japanese immigrants began receiving Japanese mandarin oranges from their families back home as gifts for the New Year. The tradition quickly spread among the non-Japanese population, and Eastwards across the country: each November harvest, "The oranges were quickly unloaded and then shipped east by rail. 'Orange Trains' - trains with boxcars painted orange - alerted everyone along the way that the irresistible oranges from Japan were back again for the holidays. For many, the arrival of Japanese Mandarin oranges signaled the real beginning of the holiday season."[9]

This new tradition merged with older traditions related to the Christmas stocking. Saint Nicholas is said to have put gold coins into the stockings of three poor girls so that they would be able to afford to get married.[10] Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold, and oranges became a symbolic stand-in for these gold balls, and are put in Christmas stockings in Canada[10][11] along with chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil.

Importation of these Japanese oranges was suspended due to hostilities with Japan during World War II.[9] While they were one of the first Japanese goods allowed for export after the end of the war, residual hostility led to the rebranding of these oranges as "Mandarin" oranges.[9]

The delivery of the first batch of Mandarin oranges from Japan in the port of Vancouver, British Columbia, is greeted with a festival that combines Santa Claus and Japanese dancers[11]—young girls dressed in traditional kimonos.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Scoop on this Week’s Snack: Mandarins". BC Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation. Retrieved 17 January 2013. 
  2. ^ Citrus Mapping at the University of California
  3. ^ Edible: An Illustrated Guide to the World's Food Plants. National Geographic. 2008. p. 73. ISBN 978-1-4262-0372-5. 
  4. ^ Toni Siebert (30 July 2009). "Nules". Citrus Variety Database. University Of California. Retrieved 9 June 2011. 
  5. ^ "Synonymy of C. tangerina at The Plant List". 
  6. ^ Yeung. Him-Che. Handbook of Chinese Herbs and Formulas. 1985. Los Angeles: Institute of Chinese Medicine.
  7. ^ Chopra, R. N.; Nayar, S. L.; Chopra, I. C. Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants. 1986. New Delhi: Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.
  8. ^ "Faostat". Retrieved 2013-12-19. 
  9. ^ a b c ORANGES 6.pdf "Information on This Week's Product: Mandarin Oranges". BC Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation. Retrieved 24 January 2013. 
  10. ^ a b Christmas Stockings
  11. ^ a b Marion, Paul (December 19, 2010). "Oranges at Christmas". Lowell Politics and Lowell History. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  12. ^ "Christmas Stockings". Christmas Traditions in France and in Canada. Ministère de la culture et de la communication de France. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 

External links[edit]

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