Edible Highlight: Mandarins and Tangerines
San Diego has one of the best climates in the country for growing citrus but homeowners rush to plant the token lemon tree in their yard are missing out on a multitude of other options – and we are not just talking about oranges. Nearly every type of citrus (with the exception of some grapefruit varietals that require more heat) can be grown successfully in San Diego and that includes a number of different types of mandarins and tangerines. You might be asking yourself now, “What is the difference between a mandarin and a tangerine?” and the answer is not a whole lot. Mandarin and tangerines are essentially used interchangeably but from a horticulture perspective, mandarin is a more correct and all-encompassing term for this type of citrus.
A number of varieties of mandarin can be grown in San Diego so we wanted to highlight three of the varieties that have performed well for us:
Kishu Mini – This bite-sized mandarin is one of the earliest to ripen (late October –February) and has sweet seedless fruit.
Satsuma – Perhaps the most widely known mandarin variety, there is a reason the Satsuma has become so popular. This seedless mandarin has great flavor and produces large fruit that nearly falls out of the skin. Our Satsumas rarely make it into the house from the tree. Just pick, peel and eat.
Tango – Commonly sold in markets as ‘Clementines’ or ‘Cuties’ this variety is a prolific producer and can hold ripe fruit from January through to July. This type is also seedless and forms a slightly more upright tree than the other types.
Mandarins grow smaller than many other types of citrus and even on a standard sized rootstock most will only reach 10-15 feet in height. On a semi-dwarf rootstock most varieties will max out at 8-10 feet and they take their time to get there. So if you are looking for a fruit tree that will have ripe fruit during the winter when many other fruit trees are dormant, think about planting a mandarin!