From now until late spring, a host of mandarin orange varieties will be coming to market. The first or earliest harvested mandarin is the Satsuma mandarin which you will probably find at your farm market this week.
The Satsuma is a small bright orange mandarin with a delicate, sweet flavor. It is seedless and contains less acid than most other mandarins. If you have ever bought a can of imported mandarin oranges, you have probably tasted the Satsuma. At the farm market, the just harvested Satsuma has a loose puffy skin and is usually attached to a twig with a couple of deep green ovate-shaped leaves.
The Satsuma like many other mandarins are sometimes called zipper-skin oranges or kid-glove oranges. The references are to how easily the skin is pulled away.
If you have a recipe that calls for oranges but you want a more complex citrus flavor, the Satsuma is a good choice.
Choose. Select a Satsuma that fills its skin, although the skin may be a bit puffy. Some growers recommend that you choose fruits that have stems or leaves attached if available. They say that fresh looking leaves indicate that the fruit is fresh. Other growers say they detach the stems and leaves to avoid stems puncturing the mandarin’s thin skin. Taste one to make sure the flesh is not dry. Avoid fruit that is soft or dented.
Store. The Satsuma will keep for one week in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Serve. Great eating out of hand. The Satsuma will add a refreshing sweet taste to cottage cheese or yogurt and you can add to green salads or gelatin salads. Remove the peel a piece at a time and then separate into segments. If you find seeds, snip the center of the segment and gently squeeze. The zest can be used for baking.
Mandarins go well with apricot, banana, chicken, chocolate, crab, cream, duck, fish, hollandaise sauce, melon, passion fruit, scallops, shrimp, sugar, turkey, vinaigrette.
Nutrition. High in vitamin C and contains about 45 calories.
Mandarin facts and trivia. The Satsuma was discovered in Japan in the sixteenth-century. Today 80 percent of the citrus grown in Japan are Satsuma mandarins. The Satsuma—of which there are at least 70 varieties–is more tolerant of cold than other citrus trees.
In the United States, Satsumas are grown where the winters are too cold for other citrus—in places like northern Florida, the Gulf Coast of Texas and the Sierra foothills of California. One well known Satsuma cultivar–‘Owari’—has a rich, tart-sweet flavor and is widely grown in California.
The botanical name for the Satsuma mandarin and most mandarins is Citrus reticulata (reticulata means ‘netted’ in Latin). The fibrous or netted strands of pith under the loose rind of the mandarin distinguish it from other oranges.