MANDARIN (including Tangerine)

(Citrus reticulata, syn C. nobilis – Rutaceae)

Another member of the orange family, the mandarin orange tree is smaller and more spreading than the orange tree, with smaller leaves and fruits which are slightly flattened or compressed at both ends. They are distinguished from other varieties of orange by their loose skins, and segments which are easy to separate. They are the most delicately flavoured of citrus fruits, but are also the most hardy. Mandarins have been cultivated in China for centuries, and the origins of the name are debated: they are thought either to have been given to mandarins as gifts, or the size, colour and shape of the fruit is thought to have recalled the buttons on hats of those Imperial Chinese officials. There is also debate about the relationship between mandarin oranges and tangerines. Some believe they are the same; many say the latter is a variety of mandarin, which acquired its name through being shipped from Tangiers; while in Ceylon, for instance, they have distinct names, mandarin being Jama-naran, tangerine being Nas-naran.

Although mandarins and other loose-skinned oranges had been long popular in Japan and China, they didn’t reach Europe until the latter part of the nineteenth century. They are now grown in the Mediterranean regions of Europe and North Africa, and in South and North America. Many hybrids have been developed, including the Temple orange (a mandarin/sweet orange cross), the tangelo (a man¬darin/grapefruit cross) and clementines (thought to be a tangerine/sweet orange cross).

Essence of mandarin came originally from Italy, and that of tangerine from the USA. Brazil, though, now dominates the market in both essential oils, exporting over 200 tonnes per year (1987 figures). The State of Sao Paulo is the most important region of cultivation. The olfactory notes of both Brazilian oils are less subtle and not valued as highly as those from Italy. The major consumers in Europe are Germany, France, Spain, Britain and Holland.


Description: It is the oil-rich rind of the fruits which is sponge-pressed like lemon, for the essential oil. Mandarin oil is golden with a lovely blue-violet luminosity (even more noticeable if alcohol is added to it). The perfume of the oil is reminiscent of both lemon and orange simultaneously, but is sweeter and more agreeable.

The principal constituents: The constituent particularly responsible for its fluorescent colour (and for the perfume to a great extent) is methylanthranilate. The oil also contains limonene and some quantities of geraniol and terpenic aldehydes (citrol and citronellol).
Dangers: Mandarin oil is often adulterated with orange and lemon essential oils, so beware. It deteriorates quickly, like all Citrus oils.


In illness
Therapeutically, both mandarins and tangerines have the same prop¬erties as oranges – tonic, stomachic, slightly hypnotic and they act as a sedative for the nervous system. They are very good for stress and irritability. Drink the juice instead of orange juice.

Nervous people, who have difficulty in sleeping, should eat a few mandarins after dinner in the evening. The bromine content, a substance sedative to the nervous system, is higher in mandarins than in any other citrus fruit. The fruit is also rich in vitamin C.
(See also backache and oedema.)

Other uses
The essential oils are used in the food and perfumery industries. The peel of both mandarins and tangerines can be dried and used in cooking ¬once a favoured flavouring of some Chinese dishes. Make sure the fruit are organic, with unsprayed and unwaxed skins. A couple of liqueurs are made from the peels of mandarins and tangerines. The Belgian Mandarine Napoleon is said to be made from the recipe with which Napoleon wooed his favourite actress, Mlle Mars.

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