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VOL. 37 | NO. 14 | Friday, April 05, 2013

Darling Clementines aren’t just mini oranges

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Mandarin oranges are Clementines, or “little oranges” with segments that have a flavor suitable for salads, vegetables, main dishes and desserts. Although mostly used in canned form, you have probably eaten a fresh mandarin orange and not even known it.

Maybe you have noticed Clementines in the grocery the last few months. They are, surprisingly, a wonderful, juicy little fruit in the orange family.

Mandarin is a group name for a class of oranges with a thin, loose peel that applies to an entire group of citrus fruits. This group includes varieties of Satsuma, Clemetine, dancy, honey, pixie and tangerines.

Most are sweeter than regular oranges, but what makes them so different is that they have a bright orange skin that is easy to peel and juicy segments that are easily separated.

Orange Bavarian Cream

1-1/2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs
2 (6 ounces) cartons orange yogurt
1 (3-1/2 ounces) package vanilla instant pudding mix
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 (8 ounces) Cool Whip
1/2 tsp orange flavoring
3 11 ounce cans mandarin oranges, drained

Crush vanilla wafers. In mixing bowl, beat yogurt and dry pudding mix together for about 30 seconds. Fold in powdered sugar, Cool Whip, and orange flavoring. Layer in eight parfait glasses with oranges and crushed vanilla wafers. Save enough to top with a teaspoon or so of crumbs and one orange slice.

Clementine Salad

1 pound spinach, trimmed of heavy stems
4 clementines, peeled and separated into segments
2 medium-sized green apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
8 radishes, thinly sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced

Combine all ingredients in large bowl. Serve with creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing. (See below).

Creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon chives, minced
1 teaspoon parsley, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons fat-free mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar substitute
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Whisk balsamic vinegar, chives, parsley, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and sugar together. Add olive oil while whisking until all the oil is incorporated. Season with salt and pepper.

Mandarins refer to the bright orange robes worn by mandarins (public officials of the ancient Chinese court), and were often reserved for the privileged in the Far East.

Although cultivated for more than 3,000 years in China, mandarins did not reach Europe and North America until the 19th century. The first mandarin oranges to be exported were shipped from the city of Tangiers in Morocco, hence the name tangerines.

Commercial cultivation of mandarins in the United States is mostly in Alabama, Florida and Mississippi. Mexico, which used to be a major grower, has overproduced tangerines, resulting in low market value and cessation of plantings.

Selection and storage

Most varieties are in season November through June, peak season being December and January. Fruits should be unblemished and heavy. Avoid those having cuts, soft spots or mold. Bright color is not a good indicator of quality because some are dyed and some naturally have green patches even when fully ripe.

Store in a cool, dark spot for a few days, but refrigeration will extend shelf life as much as two weeks.

Canned mandarin oranges are seedless and are usually of the Satsuma variety. The fruit is peeled, separated into sections, membranes removed, and then canned in syrup.

Tips and hints:

  • If substituting canned mandarins for fresh, drain the syrup and gently rinse.
  • If substituting fresh mandarins for canned in some recipes, water or simple syrup may need to be added.
  • One 11-ounce can equals 1-1/4 cups mandarin oranges.
  • Mandarins are great as a colorful, sweet accent in green salads, or work well in sweet and sour sauces.
  • Use as decoration, or as a dipper for chocolate fondue.