Seasonal Spotlight: Clementines
Oh, my darling Clementine! Whether we buy clementines from our local farmer’s market or by the boxful at Trader Joe’s the consensus is the same: Y-U-M-M-Y. These little orange fruits start showing up when the weather gets cold and stay with us into the new year.
Clementines are an accidental hybrid of a mandarin variety and there is debate over whether they were discovered in Algeria or in China. Their skins are easy to peel like tangerines, but unlike tangerines, clementines are sweet. Their small size, seedless quality, easy-peel skins, and delicious taste make them an ideal snack fruit for adults and kids alike. Clementines don’t last long at our house – we go through them like banshees!
I first had clementines in the winter of 1990, when I went to France for the whole month of December. Each French house I visited had plates and bowls of clementines piled up, and I ate many of them at any opportunity. My enthusiasm for them prompted my friend’s father to chuckle and ask, “Don’t you have these in the United States?” Well, kind of, but I never saw them.
Florida oranges dominated the US citrus market at that time. Clementines were mainly grown in Spain and North Africa. They were introduced to California in 1909, but a viable market for them wasn’t really created in the US until 1997 when a freak cold weather front destroyed the orange crops in Florida. This drove up prices of citrus, but the plentiful clementines stayed cheap.
After people discovered the wonderful qualities of clementines, they took off from there.
(Image: Kathryn Hill)