Named after officials in Chinese imperial courts who once wore orange robes and headpieces topped with large, round buttons, mandarins tend to be smaller and slightly flatter in shape than oranges. Tangerines, most notably the red-orange Darcy from Florida, are the most recognizable class within the mandarin family. Others include the Satsuma, originally from Japan; the smooth, seedless Clementine widely grown in Algeria and Spain; and tangelos such as the honey-flavored Minneola tangelo.
Like other citrus fruit, tangerines and mandarins come to market from early winter to early spring. They are ideal for flavoring and garnishing desserts, and also shine in delicate sauces for fish, pork, chicken and duck.
Choose fruits that are deep in color, heavy for their size, and free of dull or soft spots. Although some will have loose skins, avoid those that appear overly bumpy, which indicates they are overripe.
The fruits will keep at room temperature for up to 1 week or in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
Juice mandarins as you would other citrus: bring them to room temperature and cut them in half, then use a reamer or juicer attachment, and strain seeds and membranes before adding to recipes. Add citrus segments at the end of cooking and just heat them through to preserve their delicate texture.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Cooking from the Farmers’ Market, by Tasha DeSerio & Jodi Liano (Weldon Owen, 2010).