Mandarin orange facts for kids

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Mandarin orange
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Sapindales
Family: Rutaceae
Genus: Citrus
Species: C. reticulata
Binomial name
Citrus reticulata
Blanco

The Mandarin orange, also known as the mandarin or mandarine (both lower-case), is a small citrus tree (Citrus reticulata) with fruit that looks like other oranges. Mandarin oranges are usually eaten plain or in fruit salads. The mandarin is tender, and is damaged easily by cold. It can be grown in tropical and subtropical areas.

The mandarin is easily peeled with the fingers, and can be easily split into even segments without squirting juice. This makes it more convenient to eat, as utensils are not required to peel or cut the fruit. Mandarin segments are also sold in cans.

During Chinese New Year, Mandarin oranges and tangerines are considered traditional symbols of good fortune. During the two-week celebration, they are frequently displayed as decoration and presented as gifts to friends, relatives, and business partners.

Biological description

Mandarin oranges in mesh bag
Mandarin oranges in a mesh bag

Citrus reticulata is a moderate-sized tree usually not exceeding 4 m (13 ft) in height; however, a 30-year-old tree can reach 5 metres (16 ft) (such a tree can yield some 5–7 thousand fruits). The tree generally has thorns.

The leaves are shiny and green, rather small. The petioles are short, almost wingless or slightly winged.

The flowers are borne singly or in small groups in the leaf-axils.

Citrus are usually self-fertile (needing only a bee to move pollen within the same flower) or parthenocarpic (not needing pollination and therefore seedless, such as the satsuma).

Blossoms from the Dancy cultivar are one exception. They are self-sterile, and therefore must have a pollinator variety to supply pollen, and a high bee population to make a good crop.

Fruit

Citrus reticulata Fruchtansatz
Mandarin fruitlets

Mandarin orange fruits are small (4 to 8 cm). Their color is orange, orange-yellow, or orange-red. Their shape is spherical or oblate (flattened at the poles).

The skin is thin and peels off easily. Their easiness to peel is an important advantage of mandarin oranges over other citrus fruits that all are more difficult to peel.

Just like with other citrus fruits, the endocarp (inner flesh) is separated into segments, which in their turn consist of a large number of elongated cells.

The fruits may be seedless or contain a small number of seeds.

Mandarin orange fruits are sweet to taste. They can be eaten as whole or squeezed to make juice. They can also be dried.

The fruits contain a large amount of sugar (up to 10.5%), vitamins C, B1, B2, provitamin A, free organic acids, phytoncides, lectins, and mineral salts.

The vitamin C in mandarin oranges is perfectly preserved in long-term storage. Since mandarin oranges ripen in November–December, they can be a source of vitamins during the winter for people living in the Northern Hemisphere.

Uses

Korean fruit punch-Milgam hwachae-01
Milgam hwachae, a Korean fruit dish made with mandarin oranges and honey

Fresh mandarins

Mandarins are generally peeled and eaten fresh. The fresh fruit is also used in salads, desserts and main dishes. Fresh mandarin juice and frozen juice concentrate are commonly available in the United States. The number of seeds in each segment (carpel) varies greatly.

Peel

The peel is used fresh, whole or zested, or dried as chenpi. It can be used as a spice for cooking, baking, drinks, or candy.

Canning

Canned mandarin segments are peeled to remove the white pith prior to canning; otherwise, they turn bitter. Segments are peeled using a chemical process. First, the segments are scalded in hot water to loosen the skin; then they are bathed in a lye solution, which digests the albedo and membranes. Finally, the segments are rinsed several times in plain water. Once orange segments are properly prepared, mandarin oranges undergo heat processing to remove bacteria that can cause spoilage. The oranges are then packed in airtight sealed containers. Ascorbic acid may also be added. They are often used in salads, desserts, and baking.

Traditional medicine

In traditional Chinese medicine, the dried peel of the fruit is used in the regulation of ch'i, and also used to treat abdominal distension, to enhance digestion, and to reduce phlegm. Mandarins have also been used in ayurveda (traditional medicine of India).

Production volume

Tangerines, mandarins, clementines
Top ten producers in 2007 (1000 tonnes)
 People's Republic of China 15,185
 Spain 1,974
 Brazil 1,206
 Japan 1,066
 Morocco 1,042
 South Korea 778
 Egypt 748
 Turkey 744
 Iran 702
 Thailand 670
 Pakistan 640
All other 4,156
World total 27,869
Source:
UN Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
, [1]

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