Citrus fruits are small evergreen trees, native to many areas of Asia, which have been cultivated for millennia; from Asia these trees quickly reached Europe, and especially in much of the Mediterranean area; only in a fairly recent period have citrus plantations been planted on the American continent. For botanists it was not easy to attribute the various citrus fruits to species and varieties, as most of them are hybrids; generally, as in the case of lemons, they are not modern hybrids, but plants that hybridized (perhaps naturally) several hundred years ago. Only research through the study of plant DNA has been able to shed light on the nomenclature and systematics of citrus fruits. Today it is believed that there are three original species of citrus fruit, from which all the others have descended over time, through hybridization; the three original citrus species are mandarin (Citrus reticulata), cedar (Citrus medica) and pomelo (Citrus maxima, or Citrus grandis). In fact, it is not easy to define what a mandarin is, given that in Italian, the term mandarin indicates Citrus reticulata, all the varieties derived from it, but also crosses with oranges of all kinds, which should be called mandaranci or clementines . The mandarin is a small evergreen tree, about 2-3 meters tall when adult; it has smaller leaves than other citrus fruits, quite leathery, dark green in color; the flowers bloom in spring, are fragrant, and appear at the apex of the branches, single or in corymbs that can count 3-5 flowers; they are very fragrant, like the flowers of most citrus fruits. The fruits are present on the tree from autumn to winter, for a fairly short period of time; tangerines are small in size, and light in color, often have the skin slightly detached from the pulp, which gives the fruit a bruised appearance. The aroma of mandarin is very particular, and is generally present only in the botanical psecie; hybrids such as clementines and tangerines do not have the typical taste of mandarin, but rather that of oranges.

Citrus reticulata - Citrus reticulata">Some species of mandarin Citrus reticulata - Citrus reticulata">Citrus reticulata

Mandarins are small trees or large shrubs, native to Asia; the fruits are light in color, and have a very sweet taste and a minute size; they differ from other small citrus fruits for having a flattened shape, with a slight depression where the petiole attaches to the fruit. They are very fragrant and of fairly simple cultivation; these citrus fruits resist frost quite well, but in general the saplings grown in areas with very harsh winters tend not to bloom or lose most of the flowers and fruits. The foliage and flowers are very aromatic. There are many hybrids of mandarin, generally hybridized with oranges, to give rise to sweeter fruits, or without seeds, or with the skin better attached to the pulp; this last characteristic is the one that almost always occurs in the different varieties of mandarin or in hybrids, this is because the mandarins with the skin slightly detached from the fruit tend to deteriorate during transport, and are therefore more difficult to spread on the market.

  • Citrus fruits

    Citrus fruits are evergreen plants of Asian origin; in the areas of origin they enjoy hot and humid summers, and fairly mild winters, with minimum temperatures generally never lower than many degrees.
  • Mandarin leaves

    Good morning, despite having protected my potted mandarin plant with robust cellophane, the frost of the past few weeks has made the leaves dry. By breaking some twigs, I saw that I am not comp ...
  • Fruit trees

  • Kumquat

    Kumquat is a citrus fruit of Asian origin; once it was classified under the genus citrus, in the japonica species; further research has shifted kumquat to the genus fortunella; today...

Citrus x deliciosa

Tangerines and mandarin oranges are among the most cultivated citrus fruits in the world, their small size and very sweet taste have made them very popular and sold fruits, even more than oranges, which can have a slightly sour taste, not appreciated by many. For this reason there are several dozen varieties of mandarins, most of which we could more properly call mandarin oranges; the tangerine has darker pulp and peel than the tangerine, and the peel is better cohesive with the fruit, while remaining very easy to detach from the fruit (another characteristic that often makes these fruits prefer to oranges). The trees are not unlike those of the mandarins, while the fruits are easily distinguished, as they are round, compact, with a less grainy and darker skin, often very thin. Citrus x clementina, or clementines: seedless mandarins, are also very popular. Some varieties of mandarin oranges are classified under the name of Citrus reticulata Blanco, and are believed to be a hybrid between mandarins and sweet oranges (Citrus sinensis). Tangerines and clementines have a sweet and aromatic taste, very similar to that of oranges, and not the typical aroma of tangerines.

Citrus x maclurensis or also x citroffortella microcarpa

Although this citrus fruit no longer belongs to the citrus genus, in appearance it is a real mandarin orange; it is a hybrid, cultivated for centuries in China and the Philippines, between the mandarin and the kumquat, with probably subsequent crosses with unknown varieties of citrus, naturally occurring in the areas of origin. These tangerines are small, often the pulp ripens before the peel, and therefore when ripe they can be green in color, like simple and normal limes; the pulp tastes quite sour, not like limes, but more like lemons; the peel instead is like that of kumquats, that is sweet and aromatic. For this reason calamondini are usually eaten whole, with the peel that gives sweetness to the pulp.

Citrus x tangerina

Tangerines are very common mandarin oranges, especially in the American continent; they are hybrids with a very similar appearance to mandarins, therefore with fairly large and slightly flattened fruits; the peel is thick and aromatic, and dark orange in color; often the pulp has reddish veins, as occurs in blood oranges. In Italy, tangerines are not very common, although their origin is not so remote: even the name suggests it, and it seems that these mandarin oranges were hybridized for the first time in Tangier, Morocco, and from there exported to the American continent.

Citrus x unshiu

Mandarin oranges originating from China, are often called Satsuma, from the name of the Chinese province from which they come; they have large fruit, compared to mandarins, crushed and compact with a very fine skin; The main feature of these mandarins is that usually the pulp ripens well before the skin takes on color, and therefore it is easy to find them still green on the market, like limes, with a sweet, juicy pulp and a bright orange color dark. In Italy, a particular variety of these mandarin oranges is typically found on the market, called miyakawa, which ripen in early autumn. The varieties widespread in Italy are similar to the basic hybrid, that is, when ripe they have a completely green skin; however, there are many modern varieties, whose pulp ripens together with the peel.

Growing tangerines

Mandarins are small trees or large shrubs of tropical origin, which grow naturally in much of Asia; they are quite resistant plants, which can survive even very intense frosts without problems, down to -10 ° C; the fundamental problem lies in the fact that the fruits are present on the plant during the cold months, and sudden frosts can cause them to fall before they ripen; in addition to this, plants grown in very cold areas tend not to produce or produce very scarce blooms. For this reason, the cultivation of mandarins takes place in areas with a mild climate, with winter temperatures above zero, or characterized by short and mild frosts. Tangerines need a fresh, very well drained and rich soil; therefore, before planting a small tree, it is good to enrich the soil with manure, and add sand, which allows the water to flow properly, without water stagnation forming, which can rapidly cause the development of rot. Watering must be regular, especially in the summer, and it is essential to avoid leaving the plant dry for long periods of the year. In orange groves, drip irrigation systems are usually used; this is because it is important to provide regular watering, but without excessively soaking the soil. On the other hand, winter watering will be sporadic, to be provided only when the soil is dry, and on days that are not very cold. The pruning and laying of the dwelling is carried out at the end of winter, generally by removing the branches that excessively thicken the foliage; usually, on trees that have been in residence for some time, pruning is very light and minimally invasive.

Parasites and diseases

One of the biggest problems with mandarins concerns watering; in the collective imagination these trees are Mediterranean plants, so they are often grown in conditions of full sun, great heat and sporadic watering. This type of cultivation brings the plants to a state of constant suffering; those who try to remedy often tend to water too regularly, causing water stagnation and root rot. In addition to this, citrus fruits watered with home tap water often tend to show chlorosis, caused by an excess of some harmful salts in the soil, and a lack of bioavailable iron. All these problems can be solved simply by providing a good fertilizer (possibly with slow release in early spring) and watering with non-calcareous water and with good regularity, whenever the soil is dry.

The shoots are often attacked by aphids, especially in early spring. If grown in poorly ventilated and very hot conditions, scale insects and mites easily develop, which conspicuously spoil the foliage and can cause a shortage of flowers and fruit.

Potted mandarin -">Grow a potted mandarin

The citrus trees have a very decorative appearance, the dark foliage is very fragrant, as well as the flowers that bloom in late spring; for this reason, mandarins are very often grown even in areas with very harsh winters, placing them in pots, to be able to shelter them from the cold when winter arrives. Growing in pots presents particular salient problems. First of all, it is necessary to repot these small trees at least every 2-3 years, to restore the fertility of the soil, adding them back to the pot; in addition to this, the root system needs to be able to develop at its best, and therefore it is essential to provide a larger container over the years. The quantity and quality of the water supplied is also very important, which must be free of chlorine and limescale and must be supplied regularly, but avoiding soaking the soil or leaving it wet for a long time. In areas with very cold winters, the primary cause of death or loss of foliage by mandarins is drought, not frost. In fact, to protect a potted citrus fruit from frost, it is sufficient to place it in a sunny place, close to the house and sheltered from the wind. But it will be essential to provide watering even during the winter period, especially if the plant is not exposed to the elements and is covered with plastic material, to shelter it from the cold. Watering should preferably be provided during days that are not excessively cold, and must be little abundant: simply moisten the soil.

Mandarin: The fruits of citrus fruits

Citrus fruits produce very particular fruits, called hesperides; these are large berries, consisting of an external peel, called flavedo, green, yellow or orange, very aromatic and rich in essential oils; inside, the peel becomes spongy, dry, white in color and with a soft consistency, it is called albedo and often has a very bitter taste. Inside the peel the fruit is divided into segments, called cloves, consisting of a thin film inside which there are the seeds and tiny vesicles full of aromatic juice, very rich in vitamin C. All citrus fruits show these characteristics, and are then they differ in color, flavor, aroma, size and shape. Apart from the lemons, all the other citrus fruits must be picked perfectly ripe from the tree, because once picked, ripening stops; in particular, most citrus fruits ripen the pulp of the peel first, especially in the areas of origin, where citrus fruits keep their green peel even when fully ripe. Some green zones or a completely green color therefore may not mean anything regarding the ripening of the pulp of citrus fruits, which must be tasted before harvesting to know if they are already sweet and juicy. As for mandarins, the harvest must be carried out with great care, as the thin skin, or slightly detached from the pulp, can easily break when the fruit is detached from the small, causing a faster deterioration of the fruit. For this reason, tangerines and mandarin oranges are usually collected by cutting part of the petiole with shears, and therefore are often found with small and some leaves.