Clementines and Satsumas….mandarin of many names


It’s hard to get excited about eating fresh fruits and vegetables in winter when the selection is limited. Fortunately, there is one fruit that takes over the grocery store at this time that is not only delicious but is also healthy, nutritious and fun to eat!

What are all those tiny oranges? I see them labeled as mandarins, clementines, cuties, sweeties, satsumas and mikans. All of these are varieties of the mandarin. Cuties and sweeties are just another name for clementines, and mikans are the same thing as satsumas. While mandarins themselves have seeds, the remaining varieties do not. All but the clementine have loose skins that make them easy to peel and eat. They all have a milder flavor than the standard orange and are lower in acid, so if you have acid reflux it will be a better orange choice for. It’s also a great snack for children. Tangerines are similar to mandarins but larger, more acidic and have an orange-red color.

Mandarin oranges came from Cochin-China and it’s believed they were named from the yellow robes that the civil servants wore. Satsumas are a mandarin variety that originated in Japan.  Both were considered medicinal with a focus on gastrointestinal health. The Japanese even extracted the essential oil for pharmaceutical purposes. Clementines were named when they began to be grown in America. As a matter of fact, most of the Satsumas eaten in America are actually grown in California.

Mandarins are high in antioxidants and flavonoids, fiber, vitamin C and A. They are low in fat, cholesterol and sodium. They contain good amounts of calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and other trace minerals.

The health benefits of mandarins are abundant. Studies show a reduction in cancer risk, especially liver cancer due to the high amount of antioxidants and flavonoids. They are important for bone health due to their ability to increase calcium absorption. Mandarins also improve eye health, the immune system, reduce cholesterol, and assist in weight loss.

What a tasty, healthy and nutritious option in the winter when a variety of fruit is hard to find!