You have probably already seen the mini wooden crates of these little orange delights arriving in your grocery store. Priced affordably at about $8–$10 a box (about 20–25 oranges), satsumas, clementines and tangerines—all cousins in the mandarin orange family—are now in season, with peak periods in December and January. These easy-peeling, sweet and juicy snacks are perfect for kids and adults alike. Once prized and somewhat rare, they were perhaps a more welcome surprise than candy in a holiday stocking in days gone by. Choose fruit that feels heavy for its size and start peeling!

Fast Facts About Mandarins

  • Satsumas are the sweetest of the three mentioned and are seedless. They are the source of most canned mandarins.
  • Clementines, known as “Christmas oranges,” peak in December and will satisfy a palate that likes things a bit more tangy. Also seedless, they have a heady citrus perfume.
  • Tangerines have been cultivated for more than 3,000 years in China. They come in many shapes and sizes, from as small as a walnut to larger than the average orange. Peels are used in traditional Chinese medicine to regulate chi.
  • During Chinese New Year, mandarin oranges and tangerines are considered traditional symbols of abundance and good fortune. They are frequently used as decorations and given as gifts to friends, family and colleagues.
  • Two studies in Japan have shown that eating mandarin oranges significantly reduces the risk of liver cancer. Researchers think the protective effect may be due in part to vitamin A compounds known as carotenoids, which give mandarin oranges their color.