Nutrition Corner: Is it a mandarin or tangerine?

December 8th, 2015 2:54 pm

A recent conversation about whether it was a tangerine or a mandarin orange led me to look up interesting facts about citrus fruits.

The holidays are a great time to give or serve new foods. Some are common to use, but some may not be. Citrus fruits are coming into season and are affordable to include in gifts from our kitchen. What is the difference between some of these fruits? Are tangerines and mandarin oranges the same fruit?

Mandarins botanically refer to three classifications of oranges: Satsumas, Tangerines and Miscellaneous hybrids which include the Tangelo (Orlando and Minneola) and Tangor (King, Murcott and Temple). So, technically, a tangerine is a mandarin orange.

For trivia buffs, the earliest recorded history of citrus dates back to 2200 BC in China. The Clementine, (Algerian Mandarin) is one of the earliest varieties to reach the grocery shelves. The Minneola tangelo is actually a grapefruit-tangerine cross. The Murcott is re-named as the honey tangerine which is principally grown in Florida. The Temple is a cross between tangerines and mandarin orange.

All mandarins are easy to peel, making them great for snacks, lunchboxes and salads.

When buying a mandarin, check the weight of the fruit. The heavier the better because it means there is more juice in that particular mandarin.

One mandarin has 53 calories and 166 mg of Potassium (28% daily RDA) as well as 27 mg of Vitamin C (34% daily RDA). They also are a good source of Vitamin A and folic acid. Citrus fruits are sources of flavonoids, known for their antioxidant properties and ability to increase levels of Vitamin C within the body’s cell. They help blood flow and anti-allergy and anti-inflammatory effects.

Remember to rinse all citrus fruits in cool water and pat dry before peeling and eating. Store mandarins in a cool, dark spot for a few days but, ideally, they should be refrigerated to extend shelf life up to two weeks.

Broccoli Mandarin Salad

5 cups broccoli florets (fresh or frozen)

2 Tbsp. almonds

2 - 11 oz. cans of mandarin orange sections, well drained

1 orange, grated peel and juice

5 green onions, chopped

3 Tbsp. white vinegar

1 Tbsp. sugar

1 Tbsp. olive oil

Steam broccoli if fresh or frozen in a covered saucepan for 3 minutes only. Remove quickly and rinse with cold running water until broccoli is no longer warm. Do not cook further. Place in serving bowl and chill, covered. Meanwhile, in a medium-sized bowl, combine almonds, drained mandarin oranges, grated peel and juice from orange, green onions and remaining ingredients except for salt and pepper. Toss gently and allow to stand at room temperature for about 15 to 30 minutes.

When ready to serve, pour marinated orange mixture on chilled broccoli and toss very gently. Note: If dressing is added too soon, the broccoli might turn a yellow-green color.

Mary R. Ehret Nutrition Corner R. Ehret Nutrition Corner

Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at