Read all about one of the most popular varieties of mandarins that most people may not know they have ever had. If you have ever bought a package with a smiling mandarin on it, you probably have had one.
Growing up the only thing I knew about mandarins where that they came in only in a can.
My mom used to make this dessert that contained canned mandarins, Cool Whip, orange Jell-O, and tapioca pudding. This was my only real experience with mandarins.
On how little did I know then.
I had no clue there were tons of different varieties of this fruit, that came fresh, not in a can.
One of the first varieties I discovered is the Murcott Mandarin. I first encountered it at a Whole Foods in Ann Arbor, MI. The next encounter came during a trip to Southern California. Naturally buying closer to the source I ended up with a better product.
❓ What is a Murcott?
This variety of mandarin has been around for about 100 years now. Often called the W. Murcott mandarin, they are a popular variety grown in California
It may be the same variety that Florida calls the Honey Tangerine. If not the same variety they are closely related.
Sometimes Murcott will be labelled as tangerines as well. The names "tangerine" and "mandarin" are used interchangeable so much that it's really hard to define the two as being different. Mandarin sees to be the term that is used more in California, while tangerine is favored in Florida. But this can vary from citrus grove to citrus grove.
❔ Are They Seedless?
Generally you won't find seeds in the Murcott mandarin. Maybe every once a while a seed or two will show up. The Honey Tangerines from Florida are very seedy and have more of a green color to them Not as bright orange as the California grown Murcott. That is why I am not 100% sure they are exactly the same variety. But citrus grown in areas as different as California and Florida it's not suprising.
Naturally, they are not. If you let the bees pollen the fruit, you will find seeds. They cover the fruit with netting, to help keep the bees out and allow the mandarin to be seedless, althought you still do find a seed or two from time to time. Some varieties of mandarin are naturally seedless, such as the Pixie.
🙂 Cuties and Halos
I believe a lot of people either assume Cuties and Halos are their own varieties or that everything in their bags and boxes are Clementines. Neither of these are true. For much of the season, Murcotts are the variety used in those boxes and bags. The change over starts in January/February. Clementines end and the companies that own the brand name Cuties and Halos switch over to using the Murcott.
🥊 Murcott vs. Clementine
I want to take a moment to compare Murcotts with Clementines. Since they often the first two varieties people will eat under the Halos, Cuties or other branded mandarins. You may have noticed the difference or didn't know why the fruit seemed to change.
- First their season is different. Clementines come out early, in November. When they are done Murcotts follow.
- They are different in appearance as well. Murcotts are more squat than Clementines. They have a more flatten oval shape. Also their color is a bit darker orange.
After some practice and experience with both varieties I can tell when the switch from Clementines to Murcotts takes place. The packaging itself never seems to indicate which mandarin is inside.
👅 What They Taste Like
They really can be hit or miss.
Early in the season they tend to be on the tart side. They tend to sweeter up over time, but often I find that by then the members are tough and the fruit is dry. But that doesn't mean they can't be good.
The best Murcotts I ever where the ones I got to eat off the tree when I visited a citrus grove in Ojai, California. This was in the month of March, so the fruit had extra time on the tree and was way sweeter and more flavorful than any other Murcott I ever got in the store. It was a true treat.
❄️ When in Season?
You start seeing them in January as loose stem and leaf mandarins - these are mandarins that are packaged with their stem and leaves still attached. The purpose of this is to protect the fruit as well as it for aesthetics.
Around the end of January/early February they will begin showing up in bags of Cuties, Halos, and other branded packages of mandarins.
Around April they become harder to find. I don't ever remember seeing them in May.
🍊 Try These Varieties
Here are some more verities of citrus you have to check out: