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Kishu tangerines are small, 2 to 5 centimeters in width, just a bit smaller than a golf ball. They have a slightly squat appearance, with a slight depression at the bottom end. The rind is a glossy, bright orange that fits snuggly around the flesh. The thin rind peels away easily, revealing small, bite-sized sections and a moderate amount of pith. The meaty, juicy segments number between 10 and 12 and are very sweet, measuring 11 to 14% on the Brix scale for sugar content. Kishu tangerines grow on dwarf-sized trees and are harvested by hand due to their size and delicate nature.
Kishu tangerines are available during the winter months.
Kishu tangerines are a diminutive species of citrus, known scientifically as Citrus kinokuni. In Japan, they are known as Kishu Mikan, “mikan” meaning mandarin orange. Different cultivars of the Kishu tangerine are named Hira Kishu, or Mukaku Kishu; the differences indicating whether they are a seedless variety or not. Hira Kishu tangerines are a bit larger and seeded, whereas Mukaku Kishu are entirely seedless. Outside of Japan, they have been marketed as Cherry oranges, Baby mandarins, Tiny tangerines and Nanfeng oranges. Their small size appeals to children and are often marketed to parents as a lunch-box item.
Kishu tangerines are an excellent source of vitamin C, and contains good levels of vitamins A and B-complex. Like all citrus, Kishu tangerines are a good source for antioxidants in the form of flavonoids and phytochemicals like hesperetin, naringin and naringenin. They also contain minerals like potassium, calcium and copper.
Kishu tangerines are ideal for fresh eating, simply peeled and eaten as a snack. They can also be used in fruit or green, leafy salads. Serve peeled and sectioned Kishu tangerines on a cheese platter or for garnish on cakes or other desserts. Use the small oranges as centerpieces or as aromatic décor. Store Kishu tangerines at room temperature, on the counter for up to a week, refrigerate for longer storage.
Kishu tangerines are also known as Kishu mandarins. In Japan, the word ‘mikan’ means mandarin orange. They were called such because the oranges had come from China, where Mandarin was one of the spoken languages. The fruits also grow in northern Africa and were referred to as tangerines for the city where they grew, Tangier, Morocco. Both citrus fruits are identical and only differ when it comes to the region in which they are grown. Over the centuries, the terms because analogous for one another. Today, the term ‘tangerine’ is interchangeable with ‘mandarin’ when referring to the fruit.
Kishu tangerines have been cultivated in southern China for at least 100 years. Small mandarin types have been cultivated in China since the 8th century and were traditionally reserved for the Emperor and nobility. It is believed the original cultivar from China was the nanfengmiju or ruju mandarin. They were first brought to southern Japan’s, Kumamoto Prefecture in the 13th century, and from there they spread north. Kishu tangerines were first recorded in the 16th century, in what was once the Kishu Domain, now present-day Wakayama Prefecture. This is likely where they earned their current moniker. They were the most popular citrus in Tokyo until around 1880, when the satsuma was introduced. Seeds from the Mukaku Kishu were brought to California around 1915, and according to observations during growing trials, they were deemed too small and unsuitable for commercial cultivation. Kishu tangerines weren’t commercially cultivated in the United States until the late 1990s, when a citrus grower in Ojai, California began growing the small fruits. Today, Kishu tangerines are commercially grown in California and are being tested in trials in Florida. They may be spotted in specialty markets or through small, family-owned orchards at farmer’s markets in California.
People have spotted Kishu Tangerines using the Specialty Produce app for iPhone and Android.
Produce Spotting allows you to share your produce discoveries with your neighbors and the world! Is your market carrying green dragon apples? Is a chef doing things with shaved fennel that are out of this world? Pinpoint your location annonymously through the Specialty Produce App and let others know about unique flavors that are around them.