Each tiny Clementine is low in calories. For a slim 35 calories, one small Clementine contains 1 gram of fiber and is a good source of vitamin C, an essential antioxidant which:
- helps keep gums healthy
- helps repair body tissue and heal wounds
History and Varieties
Clementines are tangerines, which trace their lineage back to the common orange. Over 20 million years old, oranges originated in China. Arab traders spread them around the Mediterranean, and the Moors introduced oranges to Spain. They made their way to America by way of Christopher Columbus, on his second voyage to the New World in 1493.
Spanish missionaries planted orange groves in Florida in 1565 and in California and Arizona in the 18th century, where the climate was perfect for orange-growing. Growers have cultivated so many varieties and combinations of citrus fruits that it gets more than a bit confusing and hard to track.
The tangerine, named for Tangiers, arrived roughly 150 years ago and is known as the mandarin orange everywhere but in the U.S. The name tangerine is a group of several types of smaller oranges that contain a "zipper" skin and tangy flavor. They're often called Christmas oranges because of their availability throughout the holiday season, appearing as early as November. The most popular available varieties are:
Darcy: An early ripener, this small seedy fruit has a bright shiny rind that slips off. It has a fairly sweet, bland flavor.
Page: Known for its thick, deep orange skin.
Kinnow: Slightly larger mandarin with a zesty flavor.
Honeybell: Large, juicy mandarin hybrid with a tiny knob on one end.
Satsuma: First came to California from Japan in the 1870s- is especially wrinkly and seedy, but very refreshing.
Clementine: Tiniest of the mandarins, this small, sweet, juicy, deep red-orange, tight-skinned hybrid is a cross between an orange and a mandarin. Clementines thrive in the Mediterranean, California, Arizona, Texas and Florida.
Pixie: a tiny tangerine, this late spring fruit is seedless and sweeter than all the other mandarins.
Fairchilds: small, spherical, dark orange, seedy, juicy and sweet.
Murcotts: slightly larger oblate, also called honey tangerines.
The cultivation of the Clementine goes to Father Clement Rodier of Algeria in 1902, although earlier historical references to similar citrus fruits originated in China, Germany, Japan and California. The Clementine, also known as Algerian Tangerine, was introduced into Florida by the USDA Department of Agriculture in 1909 and into California in 1914.
Selecting and Storing
In the last few years, Clementines have become extremely popular and affordable. They are available starting mid-November through most of January. Though the first fruits of the season can be a bit tart, they become sweeter as the season goes on. The longer these little gems stay on the tree, the more sugar they develop.
Select Clementines that are slightly soft, yet heavy for their size-indicating a juicy piece of fruit that hasn't been off the tree very long. Clementines should also have a fresh-sweet-smelling aroma. Look for fruit without spots, or shriveling and no white spots on the rind. The sizing of the fruit can vary greatly and can also affect flavor and sweetness. Sizes includes medium, large, jumbo and mammoth.
Since it is so sweet, the Clementine is very prone to decay and mold and is very perishable. Avoid Clementines that are overly soft or show even small spots of browning, as they tend to develop decay spots quickly on the inside. If you notice that even one has mold, remove it and refrigerate the others, since mold spreads quickly.
Clementines will keep one or two days at room temperature and a week or two in the crisper drawer or in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Because they are so easy to peel, clementines are most often eaten out of hand. Their sweet and juicy flavor and bright color make them a great addition to:
Salads:Pair with fennel, blue cheese, or with other bold flavors where the sweet citrus notes provide a tempering affect
Jellies and preserves: Their high sweetness makes the clementine a natural in jams and jellies, either by itself or paired with other citrus or berry fruits.
Fish dishes: Pair perfectly with halibut, flounder, rockfish and other mild fish.
Juicing: They go especially well with bananas, mangoes and strawberries.
In sauces: Combined with cranberry or other berries, marmalade and fresh ginger, this becomes a refreshing sauce for turkey or chicken.
In sorbets and gelatins: Prepared with vanilla and light cream, Clementine sorbet can be a gentle and refreshing way to end a meal.
Unlike other citrus fruits, the Clementine zest is usually considered a bit bitter to use in cooking or baking, but is sometimes paired with the sweetness of a cake.