The name was first used for fruit coming from Tangiers, Morocco, described as a mandarin variety . Under the Tanaka classification system, Citrus tangerina is considered a separate species. Under the Swingle system, tangerines are considered to be a group of mandarin (''C. reticulata'') varieties. While tangerines genetically resemble mandarins, the genetics are still not thoroughly studied. The term is currently applied to any reddish-orange mandarin (and, in some jurisdictions, mandarin-like hybrids, including some tangors), but the term "tangerine" may yet acquire a definite genetic meaning.
Tangerines are smaller than common oranges, and are usually easier to peel and to split into segments. The taste is considered less sour, as well as sweeter and stronger, than that of an orange. A ripe tangerine is firm to slightly soft, heavy for its size, and pebbly-skinned with no deep grooves, as well as orange in color. All of these traits are shared by mandarins generally.
Peak tangerine season lasts from autumn to spring. Tangerines are most commonly peeled and eaten out of hand. The fresh fruit is also used in salads, desserts and main dishes. The peel is dried and used in Sichuan cuisine. Fresh tangerine juice and frozen juice concentrate are commonly available in the United States. The number of seeds in each segment (carpel) varies greatly.
A popular alternative to tangerines are clementines, which are sometimes called seedless tangerines and are a hybrid of a mandarin orange.
One of the oldest and formerly most popular American varieties is the Dancy tangerine, but it is no longer widely commercially grown; it is too delicate to ship well, it is suceptible to Alternia fungus, and it bears more heavily in alternate years. Some hybrids are also more cold-hardy. The Dancy was known as the zipper-skin tangerine, and also as the kid-glove orange, for its loose, pliable peel. It may be a pure mandarin.
Florida classifies tangerine-like hybrid fruits as tangerines for the purposes of sale and regulation; this classification is widely used but regarded as technically inaccurate in the industry. Among the most important tangerine hybrids of Florida are murcotts, a late-fruiting type of tangor marketed as "honey tangerine" and sunburst tangerines (an early-fruiting complex tangerine-orange-grapefruit hybrid). The fallglo, also a three-way hybrid (5/8 tangerine, 1/4 orange and 1/8 grapefruit) is also grown.
A honey tangerine
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Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Tangerines are a good source of vitamin C, folate and beta-carotene. They also contain some potassium, magnesium and vitamins B1, B2 and B3 and the compounds lutein and zeaxanthin. Tangerine oil, like all citrus oils, has limonene as its major constituent, but also alpha-pinene, myrcene, gamma-terpinene, citronellal, linalool, neral, neryl acetate, geranyl acetate, geraniol, thymol, and carvone.
Origin of the name
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word "tangerine" was originally an adjective meaning "Of or pertaining to, or native of Tangier, a seaport in Morocco, on the Strait of Gibraltar" and "a native of Tangier." The OED cites this usage from Addison's The Tatler in 1710 with similar uses from the 1800s. The adjective was applied to the fruit, once known scientifically as "Citrus nobilis var. tangeriana" which grew in the region of Tangiers. This usage appears in the 1800s. See the Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition, 1989. This fruit is referred to as Kamala kaya in Telugu and Portugal through the Caribbean. In Australia the fruit is known as a Mandarin.
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- Commernet, 2011. "20-13.0061. Sunburst Tangerines; Classification and Standards, 20-13. Market Classification, Maturity Standards And Processing Or Packing Restrictions For Hybrids, D20. Departmental, 20. Department of Citrus, Florida Administrative Code". State of Florida. Retrieved 14 May 2015.
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- "Satsuma cultivars: The best and the worst". AL.com. Retrieved 14 May 2015.
- "Assessing genetic diversity and population structure in a citrus germplasm collection utilizing simple sequence repeat markers (SSRs)". Theoretical and Applied Genetics 112: 1519–1531. doi:10.1007/s00122-006-0255-9.
- "HS174/CH078: Murcott (Honey Tangerine)". Edis.ifas.ufl.edu. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
- "HS168/CH079: Sunburst Tangerine". Edis.ifas.ufl.edu. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
- Larry K. Jackson and Stephen H. Futch. "HS173/CH075: Fallglo Tangerine". Retrieved 14 May 2015.
- Susanna Lyle (20 March 2006). Fruit & nuts: a comprehensive guide to the cultivation, uses and health benefits of over 300 food-producing plants. Timber Press. p. 145. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
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