Whether you call them Cuties, Halos, Clementines or whatever marketing name with a smiling fruit on the box, they are all mandarins. And they are all suppose to be seedless, right? The marketing appeal of these fruits is that they are easy to peel and you don’t have to worry about seeds. So how many of you have bite into one of these things and on occasion found yourself spiting out a seed or two? What gives? Are they lying to me? How did this happen?
Clementines are Not Truly Seedless
During the early part of the season the Clementine variety is the type of mandarin you find in Halos or Cuties packaging. This variety isn’t actually seedless. If left to grow on it’s own you would find seeds in the fruit. This happens when bees visit the fruit and cross-pollination tastes place. So why isn’t every fruit full of seeds? In order to produce a seedless product the growers prevent the bees from cross-pollinating with more than 1 variety of citrus. There are 2 ways to counteract this. You could grow each variety in isolation from other varieties. As you can imagine this isn’t always easy or possible. A second option is put netting over top of the tree as you will see in my photos below taken in California.
Of course there is the possibility that a bee or two will get through and still pollinate a flower in either option. This is why from time to time you are going to find seeds in your fruit. Can’t expect a 100% success rate, but not the less it is pretty high, enough for them to still label them as seedless.
Murcotts are Also Not Truly Seedless
Later on in the season, Halos and Cuties switch over to the Murcott mandarin, although most people seem to miss that. This variety also would be full of seeds if measures are not taken to prevent that.
Pixies are Truly Seedless
Not all varieties of mandarins have seeds. The Pixie mandarin is genuinely seedless. Even if cross pollination takes place it will not make seeds. The best Pixies are grown in the Ojai Valley of California and are available near the end of the season, starting usually in March. So why don’t the Cuties or Halo growers use varieties like this one? The Pixie variety has not undesirable traits too like producing heavy one year and light the next, that makes it less than ideal. Plus Pixies seem to only be of great flavor when grown in the Ojai micro-climate.