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Satsuma mandarins are medium to large-sized citrus fruits shaped like flattened spheres. They measure between 6 and 10 centimeters wide and 2 to 3 centimeters tall. When ripe, Satsuma mandarins have an orange-red, somewhat leathery peel with prominent oil glands. The loose-fitting rind is full of volatile oils, which release a bright citrus aroma. The dark orange flesh is firm, extremely juicy, and has few to no seeds. They are considered the sweetest of all the citrus varieties though they do offer some acidity. In Japan, Satsuma growers will keep fruit in storage before it is sent to market, a process which reduces acid content, creating a better balance of sugar and tartness. Satsumas need to be handled with care; their loosely attached skins will bruise easily under slight pressure, which will affect the quality of the flesh.
Satsuma mandarins are available in the early fall through winter months.
Satsuma mandarins, sometimes referred to as tangerines, are a variety of citrus that dates back to the 14th century. Botanically, they are members of Citrus reticulata, though they were first classified as Citrus unshiu by Japanese botanist Tyôzaburô Tanaka. In Japan, Satsuma mandarins are known as Unshû mikan and are characterized by their cold hardiness and early season harvest. Satsuma's nomenclature is said to have originated in 1878 when the wife of America’s then Minister to Japan, General Van Valkenberg, sent Unshu mikan trees from Japan to Florida in boxes labeled of its origin, Satsuma, Japan. There are hundreds of named cultivars of Satsuma mandarin, like the Miyagawa, Owari, Miho and Seto, each with differing maturity dates, size, color and quality.
Satsuma mandarins are rich in vitamins C and A. They are a good source of dietary fiber and potassium, and contain small amounts of copper, calcium and magnesium. Satsuma mandarins are a valuable source of flavonoid antioxidants such as naringenin, naringin and hesperetin, and pectin.
Satsuma mandarins are most commonly eaten fresh. They can be added to green salads or used in baked, frozen, or fresh dessert applications. Use Satsuma mandarin juice for cocktails or smoothies, or blend with other citrus juices. Pair with yogurt, endive, arugula, winter squash, and leeks. Use them alongside seafood, pork or chicken. Satsuma mandarins pair well with sweet and spicy flavors like soy, ginger, garlic, vanilla, honey, and olive oil. Satsuma mandarins will keep at room temperature for up to 5 days, and can be refrigerated for up to two weeks.
Satsuma mandarins have a low heat requirement and high cold tolerance, allowing them to grow in many places other citrus varieties cannot. The Satsuma mandarin variety was the basis for the mandarin industry in New Zealand. They provided an important, hardy crop, for fruit tree growers in the Sacramento area of California after a disease killed off most pear trees during a mid-20th-century blight. Satsuma mandarins are so important to the economy of Placer County, California, they are celebrated at the Mandarin Festival held annually in November.
Satsuma mandarins are native to Japan. They were a natural mutation discovered growing on a tree that was likely brought to Japan from Wenchow, China. Their Japanese name, Unshu, is believed to be a corruption of the name Wenchow. The early-ripening Unshu citrus was first recorded in Japan during the 14th century, not being introduced to the United States until 1876. The name 'Satsuma' was officially given to the fruits in the 1880's after mislabeled trees arrived in the United States. Satsuma was a former province in Japan, located on the southern tip of Kyushu Island, and where the mislabeled boxes were sent from. During the first decade of the 1900s, hundreds of Satsuma mandarins were sent to the Gulf Coast for planting. Severe frost and disease wiped nearly all of them out, though areas of Texas, Louisiana and northern Florida were able to maintain a small production of the fruit. Satsuma mandarins were subsequently brought to California where they found success in the fertile Central Valley. They remain the leading commercial citrus variety grown in the Gulf Coast region of the United States. Japan is still the world’s leading producer of Satsuma mandarins, exporting to both Canada and Europe.
Recipes that include Satsuma Tangerines. One is easiest, three is harder.
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