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Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Fruit & Nut Trees

Wild New Citrus (page 3 of 5)

by Lance Walheim


In simpler days, there were tangerines. Now there are Mandarins, of which there are four main types: the Satsumas of Japan (Citrus unshiu), the Mediterranean mandarins of Europe (C. deliciosa), the King Mandarins of Asia (C. nobilis) and the "common" Mandarins (C. reticulata). Of all, the Satsumas and the common types are most grown in the U.S. The former are particularly cold-hardy (to 24° F), so appreciated in more marginal citrus-growing regions. The common kinds include the popular Clementines. "Tangerine," it turns out, was a marketing term that has no bearing on actual varieties but is applied to many Mandarins and Mandarin hybrids.

Most Mandarins and especially the Satsumas are easy to peel. Satsumas are also usually seedless, while Clementines will produce seeds if a pollinizer is nearby. Mandarins are hardy to at least 26°F.

'Ambersweet'. This is one of the new citrus of mixed genetics that confounds straightforward categorization. A cross of 'Clementine' with 'Orlando' tangelo, you might see it marketed as either an orange or a Mandarin. The flesh tastes like a particularly juicy orange with a hint or more of Mandarin. Not yet widely available, it is particularly popular in Florida.

Fruits are medium-size and distinctly tapered toward the neck. They're easy to peel and seedless without cross-pollination, seedy with it. Fruits ripen November to December in inland California; late October to January in Florida.


Perhaps the best-known Mandarin by name, Clementines have been popular for years, especially in the eastern U.S. Their arrival in the markets in winter is cause for celebration.

For gardeners (and Mandarin connoisseurs), the story is not so simple. Clementines are a group of Mandarins. Most Clementines that reach the U.S. are grown in Mediterranean Europe and are seedless varieties. New seedless varieties of Clementine Mandarins from Europe are being tested in California, so I expect they will soon be as popular in the West as they are in the East.

Clementines are all small to medium-size, very juicy, very sweet fruits. Typical ripening in coastal California (north and south) is January to mid-April; in inland California and Texas, it's November to January; and in low-elevation deserts it's November and December.

'Page'. It was a lot of back-and-forth breeding that produced the 'Page' Mandarin. A hybrid of 'Minneola' tangelo (itself a hybrid) and Clementine Mandarin, 'Page' retains distinctive Mandarin flavor such that many aficionados consider it the finest flavored of all.

Fruits are small to medium-size, orange-red and distinguished by a prominent rind circle on the blossom end. The fruits will be seedless unless an appropriate pollinizer is nearby. Easy-to-peel and excellent for juice, they ripen February to May in coastal southern and northern California; December to February in inland California and Texas; November and December in low-elevation deserts; January to March in the Gulf Coast; and November to January in Florida.

'Sunburst'. 'Sunburst' is a USDA (Florida) hybrid first released in 1979. It is very attractive with brightly colored thin skin, and the flavor is rich. The fruits are more difficult to peel than most and will be seedless without a pollinizer. This variety shows great promise for California but has not been widely tested. Neither the fruits nor the trees are widely available.

In Florida, fruits ripen November and December. This variety hasn't been grown long enough in other regions to have well-known ripening times.

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