oranges lot on wooden case

Amazing Mandarins: The Little Fruit with Big Benefits

Introduction

Mandarins are a type of sweet, easy-to-peel citrus fruit that has been enjoyed for centuries. Sometimes called “kid-glove” oranges due to their loose skins, mandarins are smaller, flatter, and less round than common oranges. Their sweet, tangy flavor and refreshing juiciness make mandarins a popular snack and addition to fruit salads.

While mandarins may seem humble, they have an impressive nutritional profile and provide many health benefits. Packed with vitamin C, antioxidants, and fiber, mandarins boost immunity, support heart health, build strong bones, and may help prevent cancer and inflammation.

From their origins in ancient China to the many hybrids that have been cultivated, mandarins have a fascinating history. Read on to learn more mandarin facts about their nutrition, health benefits, varieties, uses, cultivation, and storage.

Nutrition Facts

round orange fruits

Mandarins are low in calories yet full of important vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds. Here are some of the top nutrients found in a 100-gram serving (about 1/2 cup of mandarin segments) :

  • 37 calories
  • 9 grams carbohydrates
  • 2 grams fiber
  • 12% DV vitamin C – 23 milligrams
  • 11% DV vitamin A – 508 IU
  • 3% DV calcium
  • 3% DV iron
  • Antioxidants: beta-cryptoxanthin, beta-carotene, lutein/zeaxanthin

With 12% of the daily value for vitamin C in just a half cup serving, mandarins are an excellent source of this immunity-boosting nutrient. They also contain decent amounts of fiber, vitamin A, calcium and disease-fighting antioxidants.

Health Benefits

orange fruit lot

Research shows that eating mandarins and other citrus fruits as part of a healthy diet offers many health advantages:

1. Boost Immunity

Mandarins’ high vitamin C content helps support a healthy immune system. Getting enough vitamin C is crucial for immune cells and skin health. The bioflavonoids in mandarin juice also have antiviral effects.

2. Support Heart Health

The fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and choline in mandarins all support heart health. They help lower blood pressure and bad LDL cholesterol while reducing inflammation in blood vessels.

3. May Help Prevent Cancer

Studies link citrus fruit intake with lower risks of liver, breast, and esophageal cancer. Mandarins’ antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds are thought to inhibit cancer cell growth and tumor formation.

4. Reduce Inflammation

Inflammation underlies many chronic diseases. The antioxidants hesperidin and nobiletin found in mandarin peel have potent anti-inflammatory effects that may benefit conditions like arthritis.

5. Improve Digestion

The fiber and water content in mandarins improves digestion and prevents constipation. Mandarins’ nutrients also help maintain the gut barrier and healthy gut flora.

6. Support Bone Health

Mandarins provide calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium – key nutrients for building and maintaining strong bones. Eating them may help prevent bone loss from aging and menopause.

In traditional Chinese medicine, mandarins are used to treat digestive issues, coughs, high blood pressure, and skin inflammation. While more research is needed, the health benefits of eating mandarins are clear.

Types of Mandarins

mandarins, oranges, fruits

There are over 200 named varieties of mandarin oranges. Some of the most popular types include:

Satsumas

Originally from Japan, satsumas have loose, deep orange skin and a sweet flavor. They are cold hardy. Popular varieties: Owari, silverhill, armstrong.

Clementines

A type of mandarin orange, clementines are the smallest variety. They are very easy to peel, seedless and super sweet. Popular varieties: caffin, clementine, clemenules, oronules.

Tangerines

Tangerines are mandarins with deep reddish-orange skin. Their name comes from Tangier, Morocco. They have tart flavor and aromatic peel. Popular varieties: dancy, honey, ortanique, sunburst.

Tangors

Tangors are a mandarin-orange hybrid cross. They are juicy and sweet with orange-red skin. Popular varieties: temple, tangold, ortanique.

Tangelos

Tangelos are a mandarin, grapefruit and pomelo hybrid. They are large and juicy with mild, sweet flavor. Popular varieties: orlando, seminole, ugli.

While the many mandarin varieties have slightly different flavors, they can generally be used interchangeably in recipes. Clementines and satsumas are most often eaten fresh as a snack.

Uses in Cooking

mandarin, fruit, orange

Mandarins are quite versatile in the kitchen. Their sweet, citrusy flavor pairs well with both savory and sweet ingredients. Some popular ways mandarins are used:

  • Eaten as a fresh snack or added to fruit salads
  • Squeezed as juice or made into jam or marmalade
  • Added to green, grain, and pasta salads
  • Used to make vinaigrettes, salsas and marinades
  • Added to baked goods like muffins, cakes and tarts
  • Used in seafood, poultry, and pork dishes
  • Made into desserts like citrus curd, pudding and sorbet

Mandarin zest, juice, and segments can all be used to impart a bright, citrusy flavor. Try using mandarins in these recipes:

  • Mandarin orange chicken
  • Mandarin orange ambrosia salad
  • Mandarin orange olive oil cake
  • Mandarin orange sorbet

Cultivation

Mandarins grow on small citrus trees that thrive in subtropical and Mediterranean climates. They need full sun, warm weather, and well-drained soil.

Trees produce fragrant white blossoms in spring that develop into green fruits. Mandarins change from green to orange as they ripen between fall and winter. Ripe fruits easily separate from the tree.

Popular mandarin varieties are self-pollinating, so only one tree is needed to produce fruit. Dwarf mandarin trees can thrive in containers. Growers need to protect trees from freezing weather that can damage fruits.

China, Spain, Italy, Japan, India and the U.S. are top producers of mandarin oranges. In the U.S., Florida, California and Alabama have significant mandarin cultivation.

Storage

Storage

Ripe, fresh mandarins will last 1-2 weeks when stored properly in the fridge. To extend their shelf life:

  • Choose unbruised fruits with intact skin – avoid “plugged” stems
  • Store mandarins loose or wrapped in perforated plastic in the crisper drawer
  • Keep fruits between 40-45°F with moderate humidity
  • Wash just before eating

The cold environment preserves mandarins’ moisture and flavor. Refrigeration also prevents mold growth.

You can also freeze mandarin segments for later use. Simply pack cleaned segments into an airtight container, cover them with juice and freeze. They’ll last about 3 months frozen.

Dried mandarins and mandarin juice concentrate are other ways to preserve mandarins long term.

Conclusion

From southeast Asia to the Mediterranean, mandarins have been prized for centuries for their sweet flavor, seedless varieties, and multitude of health benefits. Packed with vitamin C, antioxidants and phytochemicals, mandarins boost immunity, support heart health, build strong bones and may help prevent cancer and inflammation.

With many varieties to choose from, mandarins make for a refreshing, nutritious snack as well as a versatile, flavorful cooking ingredient. These sweet little fruits punch well above their weight when it comes to nutrition and taste.

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