It is the season of little oranges. Do you pick a tangerine, clementine or satsuma?

Are you one of those who picks the one which looks like it will be easiest to peel and what are the differences?

They are all varieties of the mandarin family, originating in Japan, and are in season in the northern hemisphere from October to February.  The trees are all evergreens and the fruits very low in calories, high in anti-oxidants, vitamin A and vitamin C and, as we all know, they are excellent pocket food – just don’t leave them in your pocket!

The mandarin grows best in subtropical areas and is often sold with a leaf still intact. It has tight segments, a strong smell, and is sweet and juicy.

A clementine has a deep orange colour with a smooth, glossy appearance. Clementines separate easily into between seven and 14 fat, juicy segments. They are very easy to peel and are almost always seedless. They are the smallest of the family and have the least acidity. Their skins are full of complex aromatic oils used in aromatherapy. Clementines are good for cooking.

The satsuma is also usually seedless and slightly larger than the mandarin or clementine. One of the distinguishing features of the satsuma is the thin, leathery skin dotted with large and prominent oil glands, which is lightly attached around the fruit, enabling it to be peeled very easily. The satsuma has particularly delicate flesh and bruises easily. Satsumas hate the cold!

The tangerine is the middle size of the small orange family. Again it’s easy to peel but it often contain pips, its firm segments are heavy for their size. Fresh tangerine juice and frozen juice concentrate are commonly available in the United States. Tangerines are often used in salads and desserts. The peel is dried and used in Sichuan cuisine.

The tangelo, widely known as the honeybell, is a hybrid of a tangerine and a grapefruit. They are very juicy and are easily distinguished from the others by a characteristic “nose” at the top of the fruit.


Sticky Clementine cake

This cake contains no flour, it’s gluten free and has a great tangy flavour as it uses the whole fruit,

  • 5 clementines
  • 6 eggs
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 250g ground almonds
  • 1 heaped tsp baking powder



Boil the whole clementines, skins and all for two hours making sure the water doesn’t boil dry. Allow to cool and place in a blender. Whizz to a puree and crack in the eggs, add the sugar and whizz again to dissolve the sugar. Add the ground almonds and baking powder and whizz one more time.

Pour into a greased, lined 10 inch cake tin and put in the oven at 140C for 30-40 mins. The cake should be firm but not coloured. Allow to cool before turning out and serve with crème fraiche or fromage frais.

Whichever pocket snack you choose this season, make sure its a firm fruit with a good smell and check for bruises.