Mandarin orange, Citrus reticulata, is a citrus fruit tree cultivated for its oranges – one of the sweetest varieties. The fruit is like other orange types, except that they’re slightly smaller in size and flattened at the base. Since they’re easy to peel, even by hand, and have a sweeter and more intense taste than other oranges, mandarins are a favorite in tropical and subtropical areas.
What is the mandarin tree, where did it come from, and what are the benefits of growing one in your backyard? Keep reading, and you’ll find out everything you’ve been wondering about mandarin oranges.
Mandarins are rich in Vitamin C and fibers and make a juicy snack when eaten raw. You can also add them to desserts, savory dishes, and seafood appetizers. They also make a popular Christmas gift when packed in 5- or 10-pound (about 2,3 to 4,5 kg) boxes, wrapped in green paper, and presented in Christmas stockings.
Though mandarins are native to Asia, people grow them in many regions throughout the world. California hosts most of the mandarin trees of the United States, thanks to its warmer climate.
|Common Name||Mandarin, Mandarine, Mandarine Orange|
|Botanical Name||Citrus Reticulata|
|Plant Type||A Perennial Tree|
|Size (Fully Grown)||Typically 13 To 16 Feet (About 4 to To 4,9 Meters) Tall|
|Sun Exposure||Full Sun|
|Soil Type||One That Is Fertile And Drains Well|
|Soil pH||From 5.5 To 6.5|
|U.S. Hardiness Zones||8, 9, 10, And 11|
|Native Area||South-eastern Asia And The Philippines|
What Are The Different Mandarin Orange Varieties?
The term ‘mandarin’ oranges refer to an entire class of oranges botanically classified under Citrus reticulata. Several different classes exist under this species, including mandarin, tangerines, and satsuma.
Tangerine refers to a group of mandarin hybrids with deep red-orange peels. Currently, around 200 varieties of mandarins are available! Here are some of the most popular mandarine oranges you’ll find:
- Willow Leaf
- Gold Nugget
- Dancy Tangerine
Where Did Mandarin Oranges Come From?
Mandarins are one of the oldest citruses on earth. Historians believe that mandarin oranges descended from wild orange trees that grew across northeast India some 3000 years ago. From India, they moved to China. Two varieties from Canton, China, were taken to England in 1805.
Mandarins got their name in England. The mandarin language was the form of Chinese spoken by bureaucrats and the educated class in China. Since the Chinese elites wore a deep orange robe, their orange import was called ‘mandarin.’
From England, it was introduced to Italy, where it became quite popular by the 1850s. Soon the cultivation of mandarins spread across the Mediterranean region, including many countries of North Africa. In Australia, mandarin oranges were introduced from China in the 1820s.
Journey To The States
Mandarins were introduced in the United States in the 1840s when an Italian consul in New Orleans imported them from their home country. From New Orleans, the fruit was soon introduced to Florida and then to California.
Owari Satsuma, a mandarin variety from Japan, was imported by the US in 1896. Around the late 1800s, deep orange varieties of mandarins that acquired the name ‘tangerine’ were also imported by the US from Morocco, North Africa.
Mandarin Cultivation Today
Currently, countries such as China, Japan, Brazil, United States, India, and Mexico grow most of the world’s mandarins. Of the mandarins cultivated in the United States, most of them come from the California citrus belt extending from Fresno to Bakersfield.
What Does The Mandarin Orange Tree Look Like?
Typically, mandarin trees are much smaller than other orange varieties. They’re thorny and adapt well to cold climates and drought conditions. The trees are usually up to 13 feet tall (about 4 meters), with a 12-feet (about 3,6 meters) spread. The older ones can grow up to 16 feet (about 4,9 meters) tall and give over 5 to 7 thousand fruits each.
Depending on the variety, mandarin can either have an upright or drooping growth. The tree trunk and branches are marked by thorns and bear shiny, green leaves typical of citrus trees. The blossoms that appear from March to April and flattened oranges that ripe 7 to 9 months later will quickly tell you that it is a mandarin tree.
The mandarin is an evergreen tree with long, thin branches having small, shiny, green leaves. The leaves are lanceolate, have small petioles, and are either only slightly winged or wingless.
Mandarins flower between March and April with a showy display of star-shaped, white flowers. They’re either present singly or borne in clusters on a leaf axil. Mandarins are either self-fertile (the same flower has male and female parts) or parthenocarpy (do not need pollination).
The fruit is 1,6 to 3,1 inches (about 40 to 80 mm) in width, with an orange, yellow-orange, or red-orange peel. The thin peel pulls off easily, revealing segmented flesh that is also orange. Its flesh is either seedless or will have very few seeds.
The taste is sweeter than most other oranges and is often consumed whole. You can also squeeze out its juice and drink it or add it to desserts and savory dishes, but you can also dry them. A moderate-sized mandarin tree can produce up to 175 pounds (about 79 kg) of fruit each year.
In What Conditions Do Mandarin Oranges Grow Best In?
Easy to peel, juicy to eat, and seedless (if you pick the right varieties) – what’s not to love about these beauties! So are you thinking about growing a mandarin tree in your backyard?
If you have the right climate for mandarins, growing them isn’t hard. You can even find dwarf varieties that will work well in small gardens or ones that can even grow in pots.
It usually takes about 2 to 3 years for a mandarin tree to grow to maturity and bear fruit. Here are some extra tips that you’ll find helpful when growing mandarins:
What Temperature Is Suitable For Mandarin Orange Tree?
Though mandarins are more cold-tolerant than sweet oranges, they grow best in tropical and subtropical climates. Mandarin oranges prefer to grow in temperatures between 55 and 85°F (about 12,5 to 29°C).
They can get damaged if the temperature drops below 24°F (about -4°C) and you forgot to protect the tree someway. To protect them, Drape plant blankets over them if low temperatures are forecasted in the coming days.
Soil And Sun
Plant them at a location of full sun. Eight hours, preferably more, of direct sunlight is best for their growth. Prepare light, well-draining, fertile soil before planting them to ensure that the roots develop well and have plenty of nutrients to absorb.
When growing them in a container, mix equal parts of peat moss, vermiculite, and sand to prepare the perfect growing medium for a young tree.
Water And Fertilizer
Mandarins need consistent moisture to develop larger, juicier oranges. While the tree is still young, water the tree regularly, at least once or twice a week during dry weather. Though they can tolerate drought to some extent, overwatering can be damaging.
According to the package instructions, apply a citrus tree fertilizer thrice a year, preferably in March, May, and June. Sprinkle the fertilizer uniformly around the tree, but try to avoid touching the trunk. Lastly, water over it so that the granules dissolve and are absorbed in the soil.
Is It Safe To Eat / Consume Mandarin Oranges?
Sweet, juicy mandarins are just as nutritious as they are delicious! Rich in Vitamin C, antioxidants, potassium, calcium, and fibers, mandarins make an excellent addition to your everyday diet plans. But, let’s find out if you should avoid excessive consumption or consumption, in general, if you have a common medical condition.
Pregnant And Breastfeeding Women
Mandarin oranges are rich in nutrients, including folates. Pregnant and breastfeeding women can include it in their diet for their child’s healthy development, without any side effects.
Around 12 months of age, children usually start eating solid foods. Mandarins are easy to hold and chew and taste great – all the reasons to make them a perfect snack for your child. You can also offer mandarin juice occasionally, as a treat. But, provide orange juice in small amounts since oranges are high in sugars.
People With Allergies
Some individuals have a citrus allergy. Such people are likely to be allergic to mandarins and should avoid consuming fruits, juices made from mandarins, or recipes that may have mandarins in them.
People With Diabetes
Mandarin oranges are safe for people with diabetes if consumed in small amounts. They have plenty of nutrients, together with fibers that can help lower blood sugar and glucose levels.
Mandarin oranges are not toxic to your pets and can be offered a slice or two but not more than that. Don’t include mandarins in their regular diet as it can cause digestive problems.