Satsuma oranges are a type of tangerine. They also can be called Satsuma tangerines or Satsuma mandarins, depending on the source. Growers must carefully hand-clip these delicate citrus fruits at harvest to avoid tearing their loose skins. They require a warm growing season and need protection from the cold. Satsumas also don't ship well. But, when they ripen in the autumn, they delight many consumers.
Satsuma oranges, known as “easy peelers,” appear in stores around Thanksgiving, occasionally with their leaves and stems intact. They’re also called “Christmas oranges,” since citrus fruit makes a traditional Christmas gift. You might find Satsuma oranges simply labeled as mandarins at your local supermarket. The name “mandarin” comes from the belief that the fruit originated in China, while “tangerine” derives from people who believed that the fruit came from Tangiers, Morocco.
The earliest reports of Satsumas point to Japan and date back more than 700 years. The fruit made its way to Florida by 1876. A few decades later, around one million Satsuma orange trees were imported from Japan to the United States between 1908 and 1911. Growers planted the trees along the northern Gulf Coast, from Texas to Florida. The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences prefers to call the Satsuma a mandarin, but acknowledges that Satsuma tangerine is also used. Whatever you call it, the fruit is sweet, juicy, low in acid and averages about 1.5 seeds per fruit. Satsumas measure a couple of inches in diameter, making them smaller than tennis balls.
Satsuma oranges pair well in recipes with dominant Asian flavors such as ginger, garlic and soy. For example, segment a Satsuma orange and add it to an Asian-style salad or use them to make a glaze for chicken. Vegetarians can experience the Satsuma orange flavor by adding wedges to marinated tofu dishes.
Shop for dent-free Satsuma oranges, Satsuma tangerines or mandarins -- whichever way they're labeled at your local supermarket -- with tight, firm peels. The heavier the Satsuma, the juicier it is. Store them at room temperature; the refrigerator might dry them out. Use Satsumas to jazz up sweet and savory recipes such as ham, cranberry sauce or upside-down cakes. Of course, purists can’t go wrong placing a traditional Satsuma orange in a Christmas stocking.
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