Satsuma mandarins are a type of mandarin orange with bright, orange-red skin and sweet fruit. They can be used in salads, desserts, and sauces, and for juicing, as well as for snacking on raw.
What Are Satsuma Mandarins?
Satsuma mandarins are a type of mandarin orange that is related to tangerines, clementines, and tangelos. Like most citrus fruits, Satsuma mandarins are hybrids, in this case combining mandarin and pomelo. Depending on which classification system is consulted, Satsumas are either their own species, Citrus unshiu, or a variety of Citrus reticulata. They're sometimes referred to as Satsuma tangerines or Satsuma oranges.
Satsuma mandarins are round or slightly flattened, three to four inches in diameter, with orange-red skin that is loose, slightly bumpy, and extremely easy to peel. The fruit is a dark orange color, extremely tender, and usually seedless, though it may contain a few cream-colored seeds. In terms of flavor, the fruit is sweet, sometimes described as the sweetest of all citrus fruits, with slight acidity.
Satsuma mandarins are named for Satsuma province, located on the island of Kyushu at the very southwestern tip of Japan, where genetic studies suggest they may have originated (although other studies indicate they may have Chinese origin). They were introduced to North America in the 18th century, and are cultivated in Florida and other Gulf-coast states, along with California, to this day. They're in season from November through February.
Because of their soft skin and delicate flesh, Satsuma mandarins are easily bruised and therefore don't stand up well to being shipped over long distances. Interestingly enough, and perhaps for that reason, when you buy canned mandarin oranges, they are most likely Satsuma mandarins.
How to Use Satsuma Mandarins
One of the best ways of enjoying Satsuma mandarins is simply to peel them and snack on the juicy sections of fruit within. Because they are so easy to peel, Satsumas are a great choice for including in brown bag lunches, especially for kids.
Because of their sweet flavor and low acidity, Satsuma mandarins are usually used in their raw form, like in green salads and fruit salads, as well as in desserts like tarts and custards. They can also be juiced, and their juice is used in cocktails, smoothies, and combined with orange, grapefruit, or other citrus juices. The zest of the peel is full of flavorful and fragrant essential oils, and can be used in marinades, sauces, and glazes for poultry and seafood. The peel of a Satsuma mandarin can be simmered in a sugar syrup to make candied peel. And they are a great fruit for home canning.
What Do They Taste Like?
Satsuma mandarins have a honey-sweet flavor with little acidity, are extremely juicy with a moderate balance of sweet and tart, along with a slight note of sweet potatoes, and are produced by a high concentration of carotenoids—a compound found in sweet potatoes, carrots, and squash.
One large (120 grams) Satsuma mandarin contains 102 grams of water and provides 64 calories, 16 grams of carbs, along with 2 grams of fiber, 1 gram of protein, and less than half a gram of fat. It also provides 32 milligrams of vitamin C, which is about 36 percent of the USDA daily value, making Satsumas an excellent source of this nutrient.
Satsuma Mandarin Recipes
Satsuma mandarins can be used in various dishes, such as salads, sauces, and desserts. In general, you can use them in recipes that call for tangerines, clementines, or mandarins.
Where to Buy Satsuma Mandarins
Satsuma mandarins are available throughout the late fall and into winter, and can be found in grocery store produce sections and at farmers' markets. Look for ones with bright color and sweet fragrance. And, if you're looking for Satsumas out of season, remember that canned mandarin oranges are almost always Satsumas.
Satsuma mandarins should be kept in cool or cold temperatures. You can keep them at room temperature for a day or two, but to store them for longer than that, keep them in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator on the low humidity setting (i.e. with the vent all the way open), where they'll stay fresh for two to three weeks.
Tangerines, (mandarin oranges), raw. FoodData Central, U.S. Department of Agriculture