Citrus reticulata: Mandarin orange

Family: Rutaceae
Common name: Mandarin orange, Mandarin, Mandarine, Kid-glove oranges

These tiny little Mandarin oranges pack a punch in terms of flavor and nutrition, making them a great addition to your garden. Mandarin orange trees grow to a height of 7 meters; small trees with a bushy rounded crown.

The leaves are small, green, and glossy with light serrations around the edges. Small white flowers are produced from leaf axils, the angle between the leaf and the stem. These flowers later form bunches of tiny oranges, about 2-3 inches in diameter.

The peel is thin and pebbled and comes off very easily once the fruit is ripe. They can be easily split into segments since the fruit has very little white covering over the flesh. The taste is sweeter and more intense than normal oranges and is not very sour. Mandarin oranges are not completely round, they are oblate – flattened on the top and the bottom.

There are many varieties of Mandarin oranges varying in height of the tree, size of leaves and fruits, taste of the fruit, and the number of seeds inside. The very popular Tangerine is a hybrid between Mandarin oranges and Pomelos.

Other variants are ‘Changsa’ which is brilliant orange-red and sweet, but insipid; ‘Le-dar’ with climbing stems; ‘Emperor’ with pale orange pulp, and long pointy seeds; ‘Oneco’ which is slightly pear-shaped with a rich, sweet fruit; ‘Willow-leaf’ a slender tree with willowy branches and thin leaves. In all there, are close to 200 cultivars of Mandarin oranges around the world.

These trees grow well in warm, tropical weather and are commonly seen in South America and Asia. They originated in South-east Asia, getting the name Mandarin orange. China is the largest producer of Mandarin oranges including tangerines, clementines, and satsumas followed by Spain and Turkey. In India, Mandarin oranges are mostly grown in the Coorg region of Karnataka.

Mandarin oranges are eaten raw or used to make juices, salads, desserts, and even main dishes. Orange peels are also used in cooking and flavoring. Traditional Chinese medicine used these versatile fruits to treat indigestion.

The high amounts of Vitamin C, almost 32% of daily required intake, makes them important in enhancing immunity, promoting better skin health as well as wound healing. Mandarin oranges also contain calcium, iron, copper, magnesium, and other micronutrients essential for better health.

In addition, these fruits contain large quantities of water and fibers, helping in better digestion. They also help in the treatment of cholesterol and hypertension.

Mandarin orange trees are very hardy and drought-tolerant. In warm, tropical weather, they grow throughout the year, yielding a large number of fruits each year. They need very little maintenance, pruning, and fertilization. They are self-fertilizing but need bees and insects to fertilize the flowers.

In Japan, these oranges are considered a sign of abundance and good fortune and are given as gifts on special occasions. In the US, UK, Canada, and Russia, Mandarin oranges are considered a part of Christmas traditions and are placed inside the stockings as special gifts.

Propagation is through seeds or grafting.

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