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The Beauty of Winter Oranges and Tangerines
Just as it seems all produce must be coming from across the world, bright and sweet citrus fruits like oranges and tangerines come into season in the warmer climes of North America and bring juicy relief to winter diets. Citrus fruits start to come into season in November and for the most part, the last remaining in season into June.
What's the Difference Between Oranges and Tangerines?
Not much. Oranges and tangerines are different varieties of the same species. Oranges are larger and tarter, while tangerines are, as a rule, smaller and sweeter. Tangerine variety peels also tend to be looser, making them easier to peel.
Orange and Tangerine Basics
As for all citrus fruits, look for oranges and tangerines that feel heavy for their size and have thinner rather than thicker skin for the variety. Store them in a cool but not chilled spot. Most of these are fabulous for eating out of hand but consider cutting them into "supremes" for a more elegant presentation.Continue to 2 of 12 below.
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Blood oranges are famous for their deep red flesh, although, as this picture shows, their insides can vary in the depth of their color. From the outside, they may or may not have a bit of red blush on their otherwise orange skins.
They're a smaller orange, quite sweet, and best used as fruit (rather than juice), if only to show off their beautiful color, as in this Citrus Salad with Mint.
Blood oranges are not widely available in North America, but can be found at specialty markets during their season from November through March.Continue to 3 of 12 below.
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Cara Cara Oranges
Cara Cara oranges are wonderfully sweet navel oranges harvested in California between December and April. Their bright orange skins conceal interiors that are juicy and often just a bit pink – making them perfect for citrus fruit salads. They have low acid and a great zingy bite behind their sweetness and tend to have very few, if any, seeds.Continue to 4 of 12 below.
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Clementines (a.k.a. Cuties)
Clementines (often marketed in the U.S. as "Cuties" or "Sweeties") are very small oranges and much like tangerines in their honey-like sweet flavor. Their small size means clementines are best eaten out of hand. I keep a bowl of them around during their short November-to-January season for snacking and after-dinner treats. Their tight, shiny orange skins make them perfect for display and creating casual, edible centerpieces. Unlike the similarly-sized mandarins, clementines are seedless.Continue to 5 of 12 below.
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The smallest of commercially available "oranges" are kumquats. These magical little citrus fruits are a bit sour and have the magical element of fully edible peels. Eat just as they are.Continue to 6 of 12 below.
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Kishus are teeny tiny tangerines (they make clementines look like giants!) and, when at their best, are as sweet as candy. Look for them in February and March.Continue to 7 of 12 below.
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Mandarins, often called Mandarin oranges, are a tangerine variety that are small and sweet. They do have some seeds, which makes them just the tiniest bit less desirable for snacking than the seedless clementines (which are a variety of mandarin), but they have a much longer season - from January into May.
Many people may only have had mandarins from a can. If you're one of those, give yourself a treat and buy some fresh mandarins to taste how mild yet sweet they are.Continue to 8 of 12 below.
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Navel oranges are the most common eating variety of oranges. They are sweet, seedless, and classic orange-sized perfect for eating out-of-hand, but also delicious in things like a beet and orange salad.
Navel oranges have comparatively thick skins and a characteristic dimple on the not-stem end. Navel oranges are juicy enough to juice, if you like. The juice tends to be so sweet, however, that it ferments easily, so use any juice from navels within a few hours.
Navel oranges are in season from November into June.Continue to 9 of 12 below.
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Satsumas are tangerines, a variety of small mandarin oranges. They are seedless and their skin is loosely attached to the fruit making them super easy to peel. It is one citrus fruit that need not have smooth, tight skin when you buy it. Choose satsumas carefully, however, since the peel's looseness makes bruising difficult to detect. Like clementines, satsumas are seedless. The two are often marketed and sold as each other - though the difference is easily told since clementines have tight peels and satsumas have loose peels.
Satsumas are relatively cold-hardy for citrus, extending their growing area around the Gulf Coast in the U.S. (although most satsumas come from California). Look for them in season from November through January.Continue to 10 of 12 below.
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Sour oranges are perfect for making marmalade (since you need to add so much sugar anyway, their natural sourness works as a nice foil to the cloying jelly that can result from using too-sweet fruit) and their juice is an excellent acid for cooking. Cocktails and salad dressings, in particular, can benefit from the greater range of flavor one gets from sour oranges as compared to lemons or limes. Sour oranges are small and have a short window of availability starting in December and getting just into February.Continue to 11 of 12 below.
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Tangerines are smaller than oranges with bright orange skins and slightly looser peels than oranges. Great for eating and adding to salads, and you can also juice tangerines for a slightly sweeter and brighter take on the classic orange juice. They have a nice long season from November through May.Continue to 12 of 12 below.
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Valencia oranges have thin skins, some seeds, and are very juicy. They are the classic orange juice oranges but are also perfectly delicious to eat as fruit (just mind the seeds).