Mandarins (Orange) Varieties You Should Try
They may be smaller than their larger orange cousins, but mandarins or tangerines pack a punch of juicy flavor. In this hub, I will talk about the many different varieties there are out there today and what makes them unique. But I first must address this important question:
What is the difference between tangerines and mandarins?
People like to use the words "tangerines" and "mandarins" interchangeably. This works in one sense. All tangerines are mandarins. However, not all mandarins are tangerines. I have searched to try to find an answer to what makes a tangerine a tangerine, however I could not come up with anything conclusive. For the sake of this hub, I am going to use the word "mandarin" the rest of the way.
These have become the most popular of the mandarin family. You can find huge boxes of these things sold at grocery stores nearly year round. One company's clementines called "Cuties" are starting to become what Kleenex is to tissue. I find the quality to range quite a bit. Some are so sweet, they just taste like sugar. Others can be tart or dry. Even though they are the most popular I don't think they are the best.
These can be found earlier on in the citrus season. They are easy to peel. They are sweet with a good amount of acidity. They have a slight undertone of lemon in their flavor. They do contain seeds.
These are among the first mandarins to reach market each year. Like the Temple Royal they have a lemon undertone, only with Satsuma, the flavor is stronger. They are seedless. I brought some to a Christmas party last year and they were a huge hit.
These come right at the end of the citrus season. They are small, hence the name Pixie. They are mostly grown in Ojai, California. They are sweet with a nice acidic balance. I enjoyed these on a Memorial Day trip last year.
Chinese Honey (Ponkan)
These are large, ugly, and contain seeds. They have a pretty basic orange flavor with a slight hint of honey in their taste, but not as much as I was hoping for. Because they do have seeds and their flavor is not that unique, I am not a fan.
A relatively new variety, they are similar in flavor to the Pixie, but they are larger and they come out in the middle of the season. They have the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity. They are probably the best tasting mid-season mandarin.
Another mid-season mandarin. It isn't as good as the Gold Nugget. I find them to be very much like a Clementine, but I think they have a tougher membrane.
These are the juiciest mandarins I have had. They would make wonderful juice. They are sweet like a Clementine and juicy like a Minneola.
Part of the "gold series" released by the University of California - Riverside. All of the gold mandarins are huge in size. Each has it's own unique characteristics. The Yosemite is sweet and slightly tart. The downside is that it has a tough membrane. But they do have a lot of juice, so like the Page this is another good juice mandarin.
Shasta Gold is definitely one of my favorites. It has a very rich, pineapple like flavor. It's segments are also very plumb. It appears in the early spring. If you can get your hands on some of these, don't hesistate.
This was my least favorite of the gold mandarins. Once you bite into them, I found it to be kind of chewy. It has a slightly bitter taste to it, but I think it adds a nice contrast.