The tangerine (Citrus tangerina) is an orange
Orange (colour)
The colour orange occurs between red and yellow in the visible spectrum at a wavelength of about 585–620 nm, and has a hue of 30° in HSV colour space. It is numerically halfway between red and yellow in a gamma-compressed RGB colour space, the expression of which is the RGB colour wheel. The...

-colored citrus
Citrus is a common term and genus of flowering plants in the rue family, Rutaceae. Citrus is believed to have originated in the part of Southeast Asia bordered by Northeastern India, Myanmar and the Yunnan province of China...

In broad terms, a fruit is a structure of a plant that contains its seeds.The term has different meanings dependent on context. In non-technical usage, such as food preparation, fruit normally means the fleshy seed-associated structures of certain plants that are sweet and edible in the raw state,...

 which is closely related to the Mandarin orange
Mandarin orange
The orange, also known as the ' or mandarine , is a small citrus tree with fruit resembling other oranges. Mandarin oranges are usually eaten plain or in fruit salads...

 (Citrus reticulata). Taxonomically, it should probably be formally named as a subspecies or variety of Citrus reticulata; further work seems to be required to ascertain its correct scientific name. Tangerines are smaller than most oranges
Orange (fruit)
An orange—specifically, the sweet orange—is the citrus Citrus × sinensis and its fruit. It is the most commonly grown tree fruit in the world....

, and are usually much easier to peel and to split into segments. The taste
Taste is one of the traditional five senses. It refers to the ability to detect the flavor of substances such as food, certain minerals, and poisons, etc....

 is often less sour, or tart, than that of an orange.

What can be considered by some to be a good tangerine will be firm to slightly soft, heavy for its size, and pebbly-skinned with no deep grooves, as well as orange in color. Peak tangerine season lasts from October to April in the Northern Hemisphere
Northern Hemisphere
The Northern Hemisphere is the half of a planet that is north of its equator—the word hemisphere literally means “half sphere”. It is also that half of the celestial sphere north of the celestial equator...

. Tangerines are most commonly peeled and eaten out of hand. The fresh fruit is also used in salads, desserts and main dishes. The peel is dried and used in Sichuan cuisine. Fresh tangerine juice and frozen juice concentrate are commonly available in the United States. The number of seeds in each segment (carpel) varies greatly.

A popular alternative to tangerines are clementine
A clementine is a variety of mandarin orange , so named in 1902. The exterior is a deep orange colour with a smooth, glossy appearance. Clementines can be separated into seven to fourteen segments. They tend to be very easy to peel, like a tangerine, but are almost always seedless...

s, which are called seedless tangerines and are also a variant of the mandarin orange
Mandarin orange
The orange, also known as the ' or mandarine , is a small citrus tree with fruit resembling other oranges. Mandarin oranges are usually eaten plain or in fruit salads...



Tangerines have been cultivated for over 3,000 years in China. They are also high in concentration in present day Burma. Tangerines have been found in many shapes and sizes, from as small as a small walnut, to larger than an average orange.


Sunbursts are the most widely grown tangerine, trailed by the honey tangerine (murcott as it is called in the industry), and the fallglo.

One of the oldest and formerly most popular varieties is the Dancy tangerine, but it is no longer widely grown. The Dancy was known as the zipper
A zipper is a commonly used device for temporarily joining two edges of fabric...

tangerine, and also as the kid-glove orange, for its loose, pliable peel.

The ponkan or Chinese honey tangerine is very popular around Melrose, Florida, where it was introduced from China by a missionary, Rev. Barrington, in 1883. It is easily peeled, much like a Satsuma mandarin, but has more flavor and grows true from the seeds. Growing tangerines from the seeds may take longer, as usually seven or eight years are required before the first fruit, but the trees will be more cold hardy than a similar grafted tree (even if grafted onto the cold hardy trifoliate orange rootstock) and larger. Seedlings must be kept moist until planting. If they dry out they will not germinate. Oranges do not always come true from seeds due to pollination and hybridization problems, but nearly all tangerines can be grown true from seed, contrary to popular notions.


Tangerines are a good source of vitamin C
Vitamin C
Vitamin C or L-ascorbic acid or L-ascorbate is an essential nutrient for humans and certain other animal species. In living organisms ascorbate acts as an antioxidant by protecting the body against oxidative stress...

, folate and beta-carotene
β-Carotene is a strongly-coloured red-orange pigment abundant in plants and fruits. It is an organic compound and chemically is classified as a hydrocarbon and specifically as a terpenoid , reflecting its derivation from isoprene units...

.They also contain some potassium
Potassium is the chemical element with the symbol K and atomic number 19. Elemental potassium is a soft silvery-white alkali metal that oxidizes rapidly in air and is very reactive with water, generating sufficient heat to ignite the hydrogen emitted in the reaction.Potassium and sodium are...

, magnesium
Magnesium is a chemical element with the symbol Mg, atomic number 12, and common oxidation number +2. It is an alkaline earth metal and the eighth most abundant element in the Earth's crust and ninth in the known universe as a whole...

 and vitamins B1
Thiamine or thiamin or vitamin B1 , named as the "thio-vitamine" is a water-soluble vitamin of the B complex. First named aneurin for the detrimental neurological effects if not present in the diet, it was eventually assigned the generic descriptor name vitamin B1. Its phosphate derivatives are...

, B2
Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2 or additive E101, is an easily absorbed micronutrient with a key role in maintaining health in humans and animals. It is the central component of the cofactors FAD and FMN, and is therefore required by all flavoproteins. As such, vitamin B2 is required for a...

 and B3. Tangerine oil, like all citrus oils, has limonene
Limonene is a colourless liquid hydrocarbon classified as a cyclic terpene. The more common D isomer possesses a strong smell of oranges. It is used in chemical synthesis as a precursor to carvone and as a renewably-based solvent in cleaning products....

 as its major constituent, but also alpha-pinene
α-Pinene is an organic compound of the terpene class, one of two isomers of pinene. It is an alkene and it contains a reactive four-membered ring. It is found in the oils of many species of many coniferous trees, notably the pine. It is also found in the essential oil of rosemary...

, myrcene, gamma-terpinene, citronellal
Citronellal or rhodinal or 3,7-dimethyloct-6-en-1-al is a monoterpenoid, the main component in the mixture of terpenoid chemical compounds that give citronella oil its distinctive lemon scent....

, linalool, neral
Citral, or 3,7-dimethyl-2,6-octadienal or lemonal, is either of, or a mixture of, a pair of terpenoids with the molecular formula C10H16O. The two compounds are double bond isomers. The E-isomer is known as geranial or citral A...

, neryl acetate, geranyl acetate, geraniol
Geraniol is a monoterpenoid and an alcohol. It is the primary part of rose oil, palmarosa oil, and citronella oil . It also occurs in small quantities in geranium, lemon, and many other essential oils. It appears as a clear to pale-yellow oil that is insoluble in water, but soluble in most common...

, thymol
Thymol is a natural monoterpene phenol derivative of cymene, C10H14O, isomeric with carvacrol, found in oil of thyme, and extracted from Thymus vulgaris and various other kinds of plants as a white crystalline substance of a pleasant aromatic odor and strong antiseptic properties...

, and carvone
Carvone is a member of a family of chemicals called terpenoids. Carvone is found naturally in many essential oils, but is most abundant in the oils from seeds of caraway and dill.-Stereoisomerism and odor:...


New research from The University of Western Ontario has discovered a substance in tangerine skins
Nobiletin is a chemical compound. It is an O-methylated flavone, a flavonoid isolated from citrus peels like in tangerine.-External links:* , phytochemicals.info...

that not only prevents obesity in mice, but also offers protection against type 2 diabetes, and even atherosclerosis, the underlying disease responsible for most heart attacks and strokes. Murray Huff, a vascular biology scientist at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, along with Erin Mulvihill, a PhD student, studied the effects of a flavonoid in tangerines called Nobiletin. Their research is published in the journal Diabetes.

Origin of the name

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word "tangerine" was originally an adjective meaning "Of or pertaining to, or native of Tangier, a seaport in Morocco, on the Strait of Gibraltar" and "a native of Tangier." The OED cites this usage from Addison's The Tatler in 1710 with similar uses from the 1800's. The adjective was applied to the fruit, once known scientifically as "Citrus nobilis var. Tangeriana" which grew in the region of Tangiers. This usage appears in the 1800's. See the Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition, 1989.
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