Mandarins (Citrus reticulate) come from the rutaceae family (citrus genus, along with cedar and grapefruit) and they grow on mandarin trees. Of the three members of the citrus genus, it is the only sweet fruit. The plant is usually about 2m tall but some varieties can even reach 4m. This fruit is sphere shaped yet ever so slightly ‘flattened’ on the top and bottom and the leaves are small and fragrant. Mandarin pulp is light orange in colour and is made up of small and juicy cloves and the skin, which is thin and fragrant, is also orange and very easy to remove. Mandarins are normally consumed when they are fresh but they are also enjoyed as a tinned fruit or as a jam. An adult mandarin tree can provide around 600 fruits a year, which are considered very good for our health, especially during Autumn and Winter when our immune system defences are down and we are more susceptible to ‘seasonal illnesses’. The best months to buy mandarins are between December and March but, it must be said that in March they reach maximum ripeness and, thus, also taste.
- King mandarin (Citrus nobilis – Citrus deliciosa) this plant originates from China, it has a lot of foliage and can grow up to 4.5m. It was imported into Europe at the beginning of the 18th Century and the fruit is considered a hybrid of mandarin oranges (Citrus reticolata) and sweet oranges (Citrus reshni). It is very juicy, averagely big and has a thin skin.
- Cleopatra mandarin (Citrus reshni) originally comes from India and the fruits are very similar in shape to clementines. The peel is orange and not very tightly attached to the pulp, which is rich in seeds and has a very pleasant taste.
- Satsuma mandarin (Citrus unshiu) this plant is averagely small and originates from Japan. Its fruits are quite big, with a thin peel and the pulp has almost no seeds. The fruits are considered ripe when the skin is not completely orange and, what is more, this plant grows well in the cold.
- Tangerine or tangor mandarin (Citrus tangerina) this plant is from the tangerine group and the fruit is round, red-orange, smaller than oranges and very tasty. The name tangerine comes from Tangeri, in Morocco; the port from where this plant was first exported to Europe.
- Chinese or Kumquat mandarin this plant, which comes from the fortunella genus and is originally from Asia, has two species: the Narumi (Fortunella japonica), which produces small, round fruits that look like mini oranges, and the Nagami (Fortunella margaritha), that produces small, oval fruits. The strange thing about this fruit is that you consume it whole, without removing the peel, since the skin is very flavoursome and sweet, whilst the juice is sour. The flavour comes out very well if these fruits are preserved in alcohol.
Mandarins have also given birth to 2 other hybrids:
- The Mandarin orange (Citrus reticulate) the origins of this plant are not known but the fruit and its peel are bright orange, the skin is easy to remove and the pulp is sweet and juicy.
- Clementine (Citrus clementina) this plant takes the name of the missionary monk Clément Rodier, who cultivated it in Algeria. The fruits are a mix between mandarins and mandarin oranges.
- Mapo tangelo (Citrus x tangelo) this is a hybrid of the ‘Avana’ mandarin and ‘Duncan’ grapefruit. The fruits have a very thin peel, which is mainly green, even when fully ripe. The pulp is slightly acidic.
Characteristics of the mandarin
To check if a mandarin is ‘good’, all you need to do is test its weight (which should be consistent with respect to its size) and check that the peel is tight and well ‘attached’ to the pulp. The fruit should be eaten as soon as it is peeled and take care not to peel away any of the flesh. Mandarins can be stored in a cool, dry place for a week and the suggested portion size, per person, is 2 mandarins. These fruits have numerous beneficial properties and therefore it is beneficial to eat them regularly.
Properties of mandarins
Mandarins have remarkable therapeutic properties and in fact all of the fruit can be used: the peel is full of limonene (an antioxidant which can help to slow down aging of the skin) and an essential oil that can calm us down and combat insomnia and water retention. This fruit is also very rich in vitamin C, which is essential for keeping the brain active and alert, as well as fibre, carotene and folic acid. Considering the amount of fibre found in mandarins, these fruits are good for keeping the intestines healthy, in addition to being very nutritious and easy to digest. Mandarins differ from other citrus fruits because the seeds, even if they are chewed, do not harm us but instead provide more vitamins. The pulp (which is very rich in vitamin C) can help to prevent us from catching colds, as well as protecting mucus and capillaries. Vitamin P, on the other hand, helps to us to get rid of retained water and encourages dieresis. Mandarins also contain calcium, potassium and, as mentioned, fibre, which are all essential for the bones, the intestines and for regulating arterial pressure.
In addition, scientists from the National Institute of Fruit Tree Science, along with other parallel studies, claim that mandarins have anti-tumour properties (it seems that drinking one glass of mandarin juice a day reduces your risk of developing a liver tumour) and that they can protect the heart. These Australian researchers also allege that consuming oranges and mandarins can reduce cancer in the digestive tract by up to 50% and can reduce the likelihood of having a stroke by 20%.
Nutritional values of mandarin, per 100g of edible product
Vitamins present: A, B, C, PP
Minerals present: Iron, Potassium, Calcium, Phosphorus
Mandarins can be stored at room temperature for 2-3 days but, if you want to preserve them for longer, they must be placed in a fresh place, like the fridge, where they can last up to 10 days.
Mandarins and cosmetics
Mandarins have a purifying and draining effect on the skin, but this is not all: mandarin oil can help to combat water retention and cellulite: by massaging the oil from the peel onto the legs, absorption of liquids becomes easier and cellulite is reduced. The emollient, purifying and stimulating properties of mandarin oil are also very useful when trying to improve metabolic performance.
This oil is 100% organic and after using it on the skin, it leaves it feeling velvety and hydrated.