WEEKLY SPECIALS | SEASONAL CALENDAR | GROWER MAP

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Satsumas

Colorful mandarins start in November and carry through spring as the many different varieties come to maturity.  Some of these include Satsumas, Clementines, Gold Nuggets, Pixies, Page, Lee, Kara and many more. The name tangerine has no botanical basis but was most likely developed as a marketing term for brightly colored mandarins.

Satsumas, also called mikans, are a Japanese variety brought to the US in 1878.  Tangerines were first shipped in 1841 from the port of Tangiers off the coast of Morocco.  Clementines have a thin tight peel and you will often find seeds inside.  The biggest difference between all mandarins is that Satsumas have a loose peel that slips off effortlessly like a glove, with no mess and no seeds to deal with.  Satsumas are a perfect snack size that you can eat anywhere without the difficult peeling and complication that comes with eating a valencia or navel orange.  They have the perfect mix of sweetness, tartness and low acidity, with very little pulp, no seeds and taste like they are melting in your mouth. 

Most citrus fruits originated in China and then made their way west which is where the word mandarin comes from.  In the United States Satsumas are grown in places where you wouldn’t normally expect citrus to grow. They need hot summers and a certain amount of chill hours in the winter and can tolerate low temperatures down into the 20’s.  Satsumas are grown in California in the thermal belt which runs from the San Joaquin Valley up to north of Sacramento.  They also grow in some southern states like Texas, Lousiana and Alabama where there are mild winters.

Look for mandarins with an aromatic smell, firm tight peel, no dented spots and a heavier fruit means they are juicier. They can be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator, but not for too long because prolonged storage can dry them out.  

A 2008 U.S. Department of Agriculture study said Satsumas have six to seven times as much synephrine, a natural decongestant, as other citrus. Four or five Satsumas have enough synephrine to equal the effect of a Sudafed tablet, the study said. Satsumas are also naturally low in calories and a single fruit contains 34 percent of the USDA daily recommendation for vitamin C.

Mandarins are delicious, easy to eat and will help keep you healthy this winter season. Once you start snacking you won’t be able to stop.

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