What is a Satsuma Mandarin (And When to Find Them)

(Last Updated On: November 29, 2016)

The citrus world was all about the orange – particularly the Navel. For years this is what people turned to as a stable in their lunch bags. Mandarins and tangerines always took a back seat. But that is no longer the case as marketing has taken off like never before seen in the produce world. Mandarins have really been coming on hot with growers develop new varieties so we can enjoy these easy to peel fruits for a good stretch of the year. One of the first varieties out of the gate is the Satsuma. As the Asian name would seem to suggest these oranges originated in Japan. Like other mandarins they are smaller than a Navel orange.

Why are the Leaves Attached to Satsumas

Depending on the grower you may find that your Satsumas come with leaves attached. Not only does having the leaves attach make for a more appealing display at the grocery store, it also helps protect the fruit. But removing the stems not the fruit directly from the tree, you don’t accidentally rip the peel at the top. The leaves also working as “packing peanuts”, help to cushion and protect the fruit in transit.

When are Satsumas in Season?

Satsumas come in all sorts of packaging from paper bags to loose ready to purchase by the pound. They are available starting in November before Thanksgiving and lasting to around the New Year in most places. Earliest I have seen them before was November 5th.

One of my favorite growers of this citrus is Family Tree Farms. They allow their fruit to ripen on the tree to develop their full flavor. Some growers will pick fruit that is still partiality green, but Satsumas are best enjoyed when they are a vivid orange color all around. Check out this video to learn more about growing them:

How to Eat a Satsuma

Simple as peeling off the outer skin and enjoying. Serious mandarin eaters can peel off the skin in one piece! This becomes easier as we get later into the season and the skin separates more from the fruit. No seeds to fuss about. You can also enjoy them in salads, so much better than those canned mandarin people like to use. You could juice them if you like, although it would take a lot of them.

What is the Difference Between Clementines and Satsuma Mandarins?

While both varieties are available around the same time and are just as easy to peel and use, the difference you will find in Satsumas is all in the flavor. Satsumas are bursting with it. The hint of lemon I find them really hits gets my taste buds excited. I also find that with Clementines you find a lot of inconsistency in quality as there are so many growers, some interest only in making money, not producing tasty fruit.

My Experience with this Citrus (Rating Scale 1-10)

Aspect Score
Seeded/Seedless Seedless
Acidity 7
Flavor 9
Sweetness 7
Juiciness 8

Watch for Sales

Whole Foods Market is known for putting these little gems on sale each season. So keep an eye out and buy a ton when they are cheap. Usually the bulk of the sales are in December, but in 2016 they were on sale during Thanksgiving week as seen in this photo from my Instagram account.

5 Replies to “What is a Satsuma Mandarin (And When to Find Them)”

  1. […] Satsumas are another mandarin that can be found now. I purchased some at Whole Foods the other day. They […]

  2. […] The Golden Nugget arrives at it’s peak at the perfect time: right after Clementines & Satsumas are about done but before the Pixie Tangerines burst onto the scene for the […]

  3. […] can find different varieties from late fall to early spring. It starts with the Clementines and the Satsumas, then into the New Year you have varieties like Gold Nugget and Page, towards the end of winter […]

  4. […] In November, they began harvesting Owari Satsuma mandarins, Budda’s Hand citron, Etrog citron, variegated pink lemons, and some Meyer […]

  5. Simon Holzman says:

    The main external difference between clementines and satsumas is that satsumas feel like the flesh of the fruit has shrivelled inside the skin… the skin is really loose.

    But in terms of flavour, Satsumas are in a whole different league to clementines… They are sweet and full of flavour. Indeed, they are so sweet that I eat the skin of my satsumas before eating the fruit. The flavour of the skin is sweet but there is a dry after taste so some people may not appreciate it. If so, toss away all those extra nutrients, but you’ll still enjoy the flesh.

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