At this time of the year it’s hard to avoid the exciting world of satsumas, tangerines, clementines* and mandarins. As I believe Eddie Izzard once pointed out there is a big fight going on in the world of fruit at the moment and it’s being fought right here between the oranges and these smaller things.
But what are these smaller things and how do you tell the difference between them? Well I’m sure you’ve wondered (but I suppose if you haven’t and aren’t interested yet then maybe you’d like to stop reading now?) what the differences are.
Well the first important thing is to realise that there isn’t such a thing as a mandarin. Well there is, but there isn’t. Mandarin is the name for the whole group. So a satsuma is a mandarin, a tangerine is a mandarin etc. But if somebody says, “oh would you like this mandarin” then they are being less specific. But it’s is the important safety word. Because this means that you’re basically able to get away with calling any of them mandarins and you’re okay, this would not be true if you were to pick any of the other names in the list.
So down to the nitty gritty. Tangerines are basically one of the pure varieties of Mandarin’s. They’re basically your bog standard. They usually have seeds in them too. The name comes from Tangier in Morocco where most of the fruit was at one point imported into Europe.
Then you’ve got your Clementines. These are similar to Tangerines, but they have been cross bred with another fruit called a Pomerans. This results in a seedless fruit. The big nightmare for people making Clementines is that it’s very easy for them to get their seeds back. And all it takes is a few bees poking around to cross them with another fruit and ruin your entire crop.
And a Satsuma is basically another type of seedless mandarin, which is actually a cross between a tangerine and a mandarin orange. This was done by a guy called Philip Satsuma** using cuttings from a kumquat plant.
In fact there are millions of varieties, because they are relatively easy to cross with other things. The rangpur is a cross between a tangerine and a lemon for example. And to further complicate things different countries “market” these fruits under different names. So in America for example you might find satsumas and clementines both being called clementines. And in Japan the satsuma is most often called the Mikan.
But in Britian you’re most likely to be eating a satsuma if somebody offers you something with no pips, and in the states you’d be most likely eating a clementine. But if you have pips in there in any country then it’s probably a tangerine. But if you’d rather play it safe then just call them all mandarins and be done with it.
*In fact you might know a Clementine as it’s a persons name as well, which might make them hard to avoid all year round.