sponsored by Farm Credit of Central Florida
Tangerines are a sweet, succulent treat that can be easily peeled for a fun and healthy snack. Florida is the number one producer of tangerines in the U.S., which are available from September through April, peaking around mid-November. These delightful little citrus fruits are delicious on their own, and fantastic when thrown into a salad, stir-fry, or seafood marinade.
Although Florida provides the lion’s share of tangerines to the U.S., they only account for less than 2 percent of the bountiful citrus crops produced here. This year’s harvest was somewhat disappointing for all citrus growers, and tangerines were no exception. Overall, citrus is expected to experience an 18 percent decrease from last year’s production, according to the USDA.
Tangerines are generally grouped with tangelos, and together they are forecasted by the USDA to be down about 10 percent from last year. Last year, 890,000 boxes of the two fruits were produced, whereas this year that number shrank to 800,000.
Although tangerines and tangelos get counted together for statistical purposes, they have some distinct differences. Tangerines, such as Clementines, are a type of mandarin. As a group, mandarins are small, round fruits that are very sweet. Tangelos, on the other hand, are a cross between a Dancy tangerine and a Duncan grapefruit. The word “tangelo” is derived from “tangerine” and “pomelo,” the pomelo being the ancestor of the modern grapefruit. Because of the grapefruit in their heritage, tangelos are tangier than tangerines.
The tangerine got its name in the 1800s to distinguish a specific Mediterranean cultivar of mandarin from other types of mandarin. These particular mandarins were dubbed “tangerines” because they were first shipped to Europe and the United States from Tangiers, Morocco.
Tangerine trees arrived in the New World in the mid-19th century thanks to an Italian diplomat who planted the trees in the consulate garden of New Orleans. From there, tangerines quickly made their way to Florida, where they became a popular commercial crop.
Tangerines are an excellent source of vitamin C, and they also contain high levels of folate and beta-carotene. They also provide some potassium, magnesium, and vitamins B1, B2, and B3. An average tangerine contains about 1.5 grams of dietary fiber, and only 25 calories, making them an outstanding alternative to sugary junk food when a craving for sweets strikes.