Tag Archives: mandarins

Marvelous mandarins

mandarins, MM

Mandarins at Monterey Market, Berkeley, California

I KNOW, I’VE SAID IT BEFORE, but it’s worth saying again: The mandarin is a wonderful winter treat, the season’s ultimate snack fruit.

If you can find mandarins in the store with leaves intact — and the leaves look nice and fresh — that’s the best indication that the fruit is fresh, picked only shortly before being shipped to market.

Mandarins, tangerines, clementines — what’s it all about? What are Pages and Sumos, Murcotts and Tangos? And what about Cuties and Halos (commercial brand names for mandarins) — and why are they better later in the season, from January to April?

Find out the answers to all of these questions and more in the excellent recent New York Times’ article, Mandarin Oranges: Rising Stars of the Fruit Bowl, by fruit expert David Karp.

For my other post about mandarins, including a mandarin cocktail, click here.


Mandarins and oranges — both in their winter prime.



Filed under dessert, fruit, winter

Mandarin love

mandarinsWHAT COULD BE MORE APPEALING in winter than the brightly glowing, highly fragrant little orange globes called mandarins? They come in various sizes, some with seeds and some without, some noted for their juiciness and others for their easy-to-peel “zipper” skins — and the best of them with a vivacious flavor and lively balance of tart and sweet.

If you are lucky enough to be in California during mandarin season, you can sample many different varieties — and buy them very fresh, from a farmers’ market or fruit stand. Otherwise, though you may have a smaller number of varieties to choose from, you can usually find good mandarins at the grocery to brighten your table and your winter diet.

Kishu mandarin

Kishu mandarins are tiny, seedless mandarins which peel easily, making it extraordinarily easy to eat half a dozen or so before you know it. These come from Churchill Orchard in Ojai.

So what’s the difference between mandarins and tangerines?

Citrus expert Tracy Kahn, curator of the Citrus Variety Collection at UC Riverside, had this to say about the subject:

“Mandarins refer to a group of cultivars and includes Clementine and Satsuma and many other mandarins. . . .  The word tangerine is often used interchangeably with the word mandarin but actually the term tangerine was coined for brightly colored sweet mandarins that were originally shipped out of the port of Tangiers, Morocco, to Florida in the late 1800s and the term stuck.  Another interesting thing about mandarins is that we now know that there were three basic citrus types (mandarin, citron and pummelo) and that others that we think of as basic types or species (sweet oranges, sour oranges, grapefruits) are actually ancient hybrids or backcrosses of these. Also, many of the cultivars that we think of as mandarins or tangerines may in fact not be true mandarins, but actually mandarin hybrids.”

Mandarin-gin cocktails

Page mandarin cocktails and Kishu mandarins in the bowl.      Photo by S. L. Sanger

Whatever you call them, they’re marvelous!

Steve and I had the good fortune to go to Anna Thomas’s home in Ojai for lunch the other day (last year I wrote about lunch at Anna’s here), and it turned into a mandarin appreciation day. Along with a great soup-and-salad lunch,  Anna made refreshing mandarin-gin cocktails, using Page mandarins–a vibrant juicy variety.  For dessert, she offered a big bowlful of the exceptional Kishu mandarins with dark chocolate. Then we all drove off to nearby Churchill Orchard to buy a big box of Kishu mandarins to share!

The cocktail recipe Anna used is from Henry of Ventura Spirits, and features the company’s Wilder gin, made with local botanicals including sage and mandarin peel. If you have trouble finding this gin or Page mandarins, make substitutions as necessary.

Henry’s Wilder Gin and Page Mandarin Cocktail:

For each drink, mix:

1 oz. fresh lime juice
2 oz. fresh Page mandarin juice
½ oz. agave nectar (Henry uses ½ maple syrup+ ½ water)
1 ½ oz. Wilder gin
pour over ice, add splash of seltzer or soda or mineral water, and enjoy.


Filed under fruit, musings, Praise for other cooks, Uncategorized, winter

Still winter…….

sweet potato with marinated feta and olives

Baked sweet potato with marinated feta and kalamata olives

Well, when we were in Southern California, it was all very well to subsist on loads of mandarins and quick meals of tacos or lemon fettucine (along with twice-weekly fabulous huevos rancheros breakfasts at Esau’s Cafe).

Back in the Pacific Northwest, it’s still winter and something heartier is needed. I made my usual round of soups — minestrone, potato-leek, mushroom-barley and lemony lentil with spinach — and then looked around for some non-soup inspirations.

In a used bookstore in San Francisco, on our way south to Carpinteria, I had picked up a book by Diana Henry, called “Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons.” (See why I had to buy it? … and more about those pickled lemons later.) Henry is a food columnist for The Telegraph in London and her writing is very appealing, as are the recipes.

Henry offers many Middle Eastern recipes, but this one is not traditional, as sweet potatoes are seldom eaten in the Mediterranean. I think it would be excellent with regular baking potatoes too, and it’s simple and quick to put together.

Break up 6 or 7 ounces of feta cheese and mix with 1/2 a tablespoon of fennel seeds, a medium red chili, seeded and cut into fine slivers, a crushed garlic clove, 1/2 teaspoon of crushed coriander seeds and enough olive oil to moisten. Cover and set in a cool place or refrigerator to allow the flavors to blend.

Bake four medium sweet potatoes until tender.  Split them open lengthwise and sprinkle with a little olive oil and freshly ground black pepper, then fill with the marinated feta and sliced kalamata olives. Scatter chopped cilantro over all and serve.

Another recent inspiration was from the engaging Italian cook, Lidia Bastianich, whose braised Swiss chard and cannellini beans recipe is very satisfying. It was similar to some greens-and-beans I make, but in this case the chard is cooked till very tender, and crushed tomatoes add a lively note. The original recipe called for more olive oil than I thought it needed and for a dab of tomato paste, which I didn’t have. I’m sure it’s dandy as she made it, but I’ll give you my slight adaptation, below.


Cannellini Beans with Swiss chard, adapted from Lidia Bastianich

  • 1/2 pound dried cannellini beans (or 3 cups canned beans, drained and rinsed. You can also make this with Great Northern beans)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • a big bunch of Swiss chard
  • about 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes (such as San Marzano)
  1. Rinse the beans and soak overnight in plenty of cold water. Drain, transfer beans to a large saucepan and cover with fresh cold water. Boil for about 40 minutes, until tender but not mushy. Turn off the heat, stir in 1/2 teaspoon of salt and let the beans cool to absorb the cooking liquid.

  2. Rinse the Swiss chard and cut off the stems (save for soup stock). Slice the leaves crosswise about every two inches.

  3. Fill a large pot with water and bring it to the boil. Drop in all the chard at once, stir and cover the pot. Cook for five to ten minutes, until the chard is thoroughly tender. Drain the cooked chard well in a colander. Also drain the beans.

  4. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil with the sliced garlic in a skillet over medium-high heat, until the garlic is sizzling. Toast the red pepper flakes in the skillet, then pour in the crushed tomatoes and bring to a boil.

  5. Add the beans, season with salt, and heat rapidly, stirring. As it’s simmering, stir in the chard and bring to a boil over high heat for a couple of minutes, tossing the mixture and stirring constantly. As the juices thicken, drizzle in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and simmer another two or three minutes.


The next night, I served the leftovers with some polenta and a grilled chicken sausage. Great winter meal!


Mandarins were perfect for dessert

Oh yes –what about those pickled lemons?


Diana Henry’s recipe for pickled lemons is very simple: sliced lemons, sprinkled with salt and paprika. How do they taste? I don’t know yet… it takes about three weeks before they’re ready. Stay tuned.


Filed under baked goods, Praise for other cooks, soup, supper time, vegetables, winter

Oh, marvelous citrus!


I have the great good fortune to be spending the month of January in Southern California, in the beach town of Carpinteria near Santa Barbara, where there are five farmers markets a week in a 20-mile radius. One of them, every Thursday, is just down the block! Having so many fresh fruits and vegetables is something of a miracle, but the seasonal highlight for me is always citrus.

Wherever you are this winter, unless you are a strict locavore, you can enjoy the wonder of citrus.


Oranges are at their best this time of year and it’s hard to go wrong with a nice juicy navel orange.


Fruit aficionado David Karp, who writes Market Watch for the L.A. Times, recently had this to say about mandarins. “Mandarins at their best are the noblest of citrus, with intense, complex aromatics and fascinating varietal identities,” he writes. We drove up to the farmers market in Ojai to find some tasty clementines and Lee mandarins from Friend’s Ranch and they are both delicious.


You probably won’t find Lee mandarins, but grocery stores are full of clementines, often marketed as “Cuties” or “Bee Sweet” or “Sweeties” or some other name. Another easy to find (and easy to peel “zipper skin”) mandarin is the Satsuma.

Blood orange, satsuma

Blood orange, Satsuma mandarin

Now, I know I’m usually talking about lemons, and for once I have enough to keep me going for awhile. I toured the Saticoy Lemon Association packing plant the other day and came away with a wonderful gift: a big box of lemons!


It’s a cliche, but I will be making lemonade — and more!

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