Mandarins are closely related to their larger counterparts, the oranges. Just like oranges, they are citrus fruit with a sweet, tangy, acidic taste. Unlike oranges however, mandarins are easier to peel due to their soft, thin and loose skins. There are two major varieties of mandarins: clementine and tangerine, each with its specific taste and applications in the kitchen and in your diet. Mandarins are regularly quite smaller than your average orange, and have a sweeter taste. When peeled, the individual pieces of a mandarin will be easy to separate unlike in an orange where the skin might stick together. Speaking of which, a mandarin’s interior skin is much thinner and has a softer bitterness to it.
Probably one of the most popular mandarin varieties, a clementine is the seedless version of the mandarin. Equally sweet and equally nutritious, just like its mandarin counterpart, the clementine also matures faster than most other citrus fruits, meaning it can be enjoyed for longer periods of time during the year. This is mostly because this variety has no seeds, so the plant doesn’t waste more energy on creating them. But this also means that the only way of propagating a clementine orchard is through grafting.
At its base, the clementine is a mix between sweet oranges and regular mandarins. The effect is a much sweeter fruit, unhindered by seeds and making it easier to use in cooking because of that. Great in salads, shakes, and even in preserves like jams, the clementine is definitely a versatile citrus fruit.
Tangerines are possibly a version of mandarins, although botanists have not yet reached a consensus in this matter. However, we do know that these citrus fruits are basically a redder version of the regular mandarins. And like mandarins, they have seeds, are a whole lot sweeter than oranges, easier to peel and separate into individual fragments one the outer skin is removed. The white mesocarp is also missing from this citrus fruit, which makes it less bitter than the mesocarp-rich regular orange.
Tangerines are best eaten out of hand, and there’s really nothing from them that needs to be thrown away. Even the skin can be used in cooking both tropical dishes and desserts. A popular method of serving tangerine peels is coating them in chocolate. The pulp of the tangerine is great in salads and drinks, while the skin can be zested to use in baking and drinks as well.
Nutritionally speaking, most mandarins, clementine and tangerines have the same values. Each variety of this type of citrus fruit packs a bunch of vitamin C and has some dietary fiber alongside the carbohydrates (sugars) present. Lower amounts of B1 and B6 vitamins can also be found in a hundred-gram serving.