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 citrus is a deep-orange-colored hybrid of the mandarin orange, which is native to Southeastern Asia and has been cultivated and enjoyed in that region for the past few centuries. The tangerine fruits are smaller than other orange cultivars but they make up for their small size with a richer flavor, sweeter taste, and easy-to-peel skin.

Tangerine History

So where did tangerines come from and how did they get to the United States?

Japan, China or northeastern India is said to be the country of origin of tangerines, as well as  most other citrus fruits. They first traveled to North Africa via the Silk Road trade route and were sent to other parts of the world through the Moroccan seaport of Tangiers where they got the name Tangerine.

The Tangerine tree first arrived in the United States in the mid-nineteenth century when an Italian diplomat planted the trees in the consulate garden in New Orleans. From New Orleans, the tangerine fruit tree was taken to Florida where it became a top commercial citrus crop.

Best Tangerine Tree

If you are planning on growing a Tangerine tree and you are wondering what best Tangerine tree to plant in your backyard, then check out the list we have below of different Tangerine varieties to choose from:

  • Sunburst Tangerine Tree – This thornless variety is an intentional cross between Robinson and Osceola. It was made in 1961 and was released by the United States Department of Agriculture in Orlando for commercial propagation in 1979. The standard Sunburst Tangerine Tree size is 12 to 14 feet tall with a width of up to 10 feet. This moderately vigorous tree produces dark-orange colored fruits with easy-to-peel rind. The Sunburst tangerines fruit is juicy, extremely sweet and has very mild acid flavor.
  • Algerian Tangerine Tree – also known as Clementine, the Algerian Tangerine Tree has dense foliage with an attractive weeping growth habit. It grows moderately and makes a lovely ornamental tree because of its showy foliage and medium-sized orange fruits that stay on the tree way past their maturity. The terrifically sweet fruits are juicy, tender and refreshing.
  • Honey Tangerine Tree – the Honey Tangerine, otherwise known as Murcott, is a Tangor cross between a Tangerine and sweet orange. This cold-hardy tree is moderately vigorous and has an upright, willow-like growth habit. The fruits produced are medium in size, rich in flavor, sweet-tasting, and boast a reddish-orange peel color. Unlike other tangerine fruits, Murcotts are harder to peel.

Tangerine Facts

Because we like tangerines so much, we have answered some of the most frequently asked questions about them:

  • Where do tangerines come from? – Tangerines originated from Southeastern Asia, most likely from Japan, China or northeastern India.
  • Where are tangerines grown? – Tangerines are grown in California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida.
  • How long does a tangerine tree take to grow? – Seed-grown trees usually take 15 years upward to reach maturity. However, grafted Tangerine trees only take 2-3 years since the cuttings are grafted onto mature citrus rootstocks.
  • Do tangerines grow on trees? – Yes, tangerine fruits grow on trees.
  • How long does it take a tangerine tree to produce fruit? – Upon reaching 2-3 years, a grafted Tangerine tree may start bearing fruits.

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.