Taking Time for Tangerines

Tangerines (Citrus tangerina) are orange-colored citrus fruit that are closely related to (and perhaps a variety of) mandarin oranges (Citrus reticulata). They share the genus Citrus with lemonsgrapefruitslimes, oranges, and pomelos. The fruit is a modified berry with a leathery rind called a hesperidium. Like other citrus fruits, their peels contain many volatile oil glands in pits. Their inner flesh is composed of eight to ten segments, called carpels, made up of juice-filled vesicles that are actually specialized hair cells. Along with other citrus fruits, they are members of the Rutaceae family, which is one of only two plant families that produce a class of phytochemicals called limonoids. Limonoids mainly function an herbivore deterrent. They are responsible for the bitter taste of citrus peels, and, when consumed, act as a growth inhibitor, and even as a natural insecticide. Limonoids also have an array of potential health benefits to humans. Certain limonoid compounds appear to have anti-cancer properties.

Tangerines are native to the tropical and sup-tropical regions of Southeastern Asia, including Southern China and the Philippines.  Tangerines have been cultivated for over three thousand years in counties like Japan and China.  The name “tangerine” originates from Tangier, Morocco which was the port from which the very first batch of the tangerines were shipped to Europe.

Two varieties from Canton were taken to England in 1805. They were cultivated in the Mediterranean area and, by 1850, were well established in Italy. Sometime between 1840 and 1850, the ‘Willow-leaf’ or ‘China Mandarin’ was imported by the Italian Consul and planted at the Consulate in New Orleans. They were carried from there to Florida and later reached California. The ‘Owari’ Satsuma arrived from Japan in 1876. In 1880, horticulturalist Jean K. Magee of Riverside, California, read a magazine article about a high-quality Chinese orange. She wrote to her personal friend, then the United States Minister to Japan, John A. Bingham, who arranged to have six fruits of the ‘King’ variety sent from Saigon, Cochin-China (South Vietnam) to Jean and her husband, Dr. Stephen R. Magee. Dr. Magee sent two seedlings to John Carville Stovin of Winter Park, Florida, in 1882.  Florida nurseryman Pliny Ward Reasoner obtained seeds of the ‘Oneco’ variety from India in 1888. In 1892 or 1893, two  fruits of ‘Ponkan’ were sent from China to John C. Barrington of McMeekin, Florida, who distributed seedlings that led to commercial propagation.

Nearly a million budded trees were planted from 1908 to 1911 in the Gulf States. The commercial cultivation of mandarin oranges in the United States has developed mostly in Alabama, Florida and Mississippi and, to a lesser extent, in Texas, Georgia and California.

Today, tangerines are cultivated in the subtropical regions of the world, especially in southern Europe and the southern United States. Commercial crops are grown in Arizona, California, the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, and the Gulf states.

Tangerines can:

  1. Fight free radicals. Tangerines are an excellent source of vitamin C: just one medium tangerine supplies 39% of the daily value for vitamin C. Vitamin C is the primary water-soluble antioxidant in your body, disarming free radicals and preventing damage in the liquid environment both inside and outside cells. The polyphenols in tangerines also have a wide range of antioxidant effects. Geraniol, beta-crpytoxanthin, ferulic acid, and nobiletin in tangerines are also potent antioxidants that eradicate free radicals that can lead to cancer, a compromised immune system, and a weakened body that can make it ripe for the development of diabetes. Limonin, nomilin, nomilinic acid, naringenin, and narirutin  in tangerines act as active antioxidants and prevent the breakdown of cell DNA.
  2. Support your immune system. Vitamin C, which is also vital for the proper function of a healthy immune system, is good for preventing colds and may be helpful in preventing recurrent ear infections. The vitamin A in tangerines is also important for immune system health. The healing properties of tangerines have been associated with a wide variety of phytochemicals, including citrus flavanones (types of flavonoids that include hesperidin and naringenin), and a variety of polyphenols.  The polyphenols in tangerines have a wide range of anti-viral effects. Narirutin in tangerines reduces hepatitis C virus production by infected liver cells. Rutin in tangerine rinds treats oral herpes, cirrhosis, cataracts, and glaucoma.
  3. Protect against cancer.  Inside your cells, free radical damage to your DNA can lead to cancer. Especially in areas of your body where cells are rapidly dividing, such as your digestive system, preventing DNA mutations translates into preventing cancer. That’s why taking in plenty of vitamin C reduces your risk of colon cancer. Tangerines also may reduce your risk of cancer in your mouth, larynx, pharynx, esophagus, and stomach. The vitamin C in tangerines reduces your risk of infection with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), the bacterium responsible for causing stomach cancer. Limonoids, including limonin, nomilin, and nomilinic acid in tangerines prevent the breakdown of cell DNA and fight cancers of the mouth, skin, lung, breast, stomach, and colon. The fiber in tangerines can bind cancer-causing chemicals and keep them away from cells of your colon, providing yet another line of protection from colon cancer. Beta-cryptoxanthin, an orange-red carotenoid in tangerines, may significantly lower your risk of developing lung cancer. The polyphenols in tangerines have a wide range of anti-proliferative and anti-carcinogenic effects. Geraniol in tangerines is being studied for its abilities to suppress tumor growth. Ferulic acid in tangerines may also prevent cancer. Tangeretin is concentrated in the peel of tangerines, and may help prevent certain types of cancer, including inhibiting the growth of leukemic cells through apoptosis (programmed cell death), while sparing normal cells. In addition, tangeretin has been shown to protect cells against the effects of bacterial mutagens, which induces change in the DNA (i.e. causes a genetic mutation) that can lead to cancer.
  4. Protect against cardiovascular disease. If the cholesterol in your blood becomes oxidized by free radicals, it is able to stick to your artery walls, building up in plaques that may eventually grow large enough to impede or fully block blood flow, or rupture to cause a heart attack or stroke. Because vitamin C can neutralize free radicals, it can help prevent the oxidation of cholesterol. The folate in tangerines also offers protection against cardiovascular disease by lowering levels of the cardiovascular risk factor, homocysteine. Thiamine in tangerines supports proper heart function. The potassium in tangerines helps lower blood pressure, protecting against stroke and cardiac arrhythmias. The carotenoids and flavonoids in tangerines also help protect you against cardiovascular disease. A flavanone in tangerines, hesperidin, can strengthen your blood vessels and lower high blood pressure as well as cholesterol. Naringenin in tangerines may be useful in preventing heart disease. Nobiletin in tangerines prevents the build-up of arterial plaque which causes heart disease and stroke. Rutin in tangerine rinds can be helpful in reducing weakness in the blood vessels and the resultant hemorrhages, improving circulatory problems, including varicose veins and poor circulation, and lowering the risk of heart disease.
  5. Fight chronic inflammationFree radical damage to cellular structures and other molecules can result in painful inflammation, as your body tries to clean up and repair the damage. The vitamin C in tangerines prevents the free radical damage that triggers chronic inflammation, and also reduces the severity of inflammatory conditions, such as hay fever, periodontitis, atherosclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, lupus, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and even cancer. The polyphenols in tangerines have anti-inflammatory effects. A flavanone in tangerines, hesperidin, has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Naringenin in tangerines has anti-inflammatory effects. Rutin in tangerine rinds can be useful in treating inflammatory diseases such as hay fever, gout, arthritis, edema, hemorrhoids, and inflammatory bowel disease.
  6. Maintain a healthy weight. As low fat, nutrient-rich foods with a low glycemic index, tangerines can protect you against unwanted weight gain and obesity, conditions which increase your risk of heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, high blood pressure, and stroke, and exacerbate symptoms of other conditions like arthritis. Naringenin and narirutin in tangerines may also be useful in preventing obesity.
  7. Lower cholesterol. A single medium tangerine provides 6% of the daily value for fiber, which reduces high cholesterol levels, and helps prevent atherosclerosis. Apolipoprotein B (ApoB)  is a structural protein that is part of the low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol molecule and is needed for LDL production, transport, and binding. Your liver cells produce less Apo B when exposed to limonin in tangerines, which translates to lower levels of LDL cholesterol. Phytochemicals in tangerine peels called polymethoxylated flavones (PMFs), including tangeretin, nobiletin, hesperidin, and naringin, may lower cholesterol more effectively than some prescription drugs, and without side effects. Grate a tablespoon or so of the peel from a well-scrubbed organic tangerine (or orange) each day and use it to flavor tea, salads, salad dressings, soups, hot oatmeal, buckwheat, or rice to achieve some cholesterol-lowering benefits. PMFs may work like statin drugs, by inhibiting the synthesis of cholesterol and triglycerides inside your liver. Nomilin and nomilinic acid in tangerines may reduce cholesterol, and inhibit the production of cholesterol compounds in the liver. Ferulic acid in tangerines reduces blood levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Narirutin in tangerines inhibits the secretion of very-low-density lipoprotein and lowers plasma and hepatic cholesterol concentrations. Rutin in tangerine rinds reduces serum cholesterol and oxidized LDL cholesterol.
  8. Regulate blood sugar. The fiber in tangerines can keep blood sugar levels under control. In addition, the natural fruit sugar in tangerines, fructose, can help to keep blood sugar levels from rising too high after eating. Ferulic acid in tangerines may help treat diabetes. Naringenin in tangerines may be useful in preventing type 2 diabetes. Nobiletin in tangerines prevents the build-up of fat in the liver and the subsequent over productive of insulin due to increasing glucose in the blood.
  9. Prevent kidney stones. Tangerines increase your urinary pH value and citric acid excretion, significantly decreasing your risk of forming calcium oxalate kidney stones.
  10. Help prevent ulcers. The vitamin C in tangerines reduces your risk of infection with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), the bacterium responsible for causing stomach ulcers.
  11. Protect against arthritis. The carotenoids zeaxanthin and beta-cryptoxanthin in tangerines lower your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory polyarthritis. Rutin in tangerine rinds can be useful in treating arthritis.
  12. Keep your skin looking young.  Hesperidin and rutin in tangerines work together with vitamin C to maintain healthy collagen, which prevents sagging and wrinkling of your skin. The vitamin A in tangerines is also important for healthy skin. Ferulic acid in tangerines protects your skin from ultraviolet (UV) damage.

Nutrients in 100 Grams of Fresh Raw Tangerines



Daily Value

vitamin C

26.7 mg


vitamin A

681 IU



1.8 g



16 mg



37 mg



16 µg



13.3 g



0.1 mg


vitamin B6

0.1 mg






12 mg



0.8 g



0.4 mg


pantothenic acid

0.2 mg



0.042 mg



0.039 mg



0.036 mg


vitamin E

0.2 mg



0.2 mg



0.1 mg



0.3 g



0 mg



0 mg


Beta cryptoxanthin

407 µg

Beta carotene

155 µg


138 µg

Alpha carotene

101 µg

Here is a list of some of the common varieties of tangerines and when they are available:

  • Clementines, the most popular variety of tangerine, contain very few seeds and have a glossy, dark orange peel. Often sold with the leaves attached, they are in season from mid-November to January.
  • Dancys have a dark red-orange thin peel, a fairly large number of seeds, and an excellent tart-sweet flavor. They are in season from mid-December to January.
  • Fairchilds, known for their easy to peel “zipper skin,” are one of the earliest varieties, available from mid-October to January.
  • Honeys, also known as Murcott or Honey Mandarin, have thin skins, many seeds, and are very sweet and juicy. They are in season from January through April.
  • Satsumas have a lighter-colored orange peel and bright orange flesh. They are less acidic than some of the other varieties, and are often sold in cans as Mandarin oranges. They are available fresh from mid-October to the end of December.

Buy organic tangerines, and don’t worry if they’re not solid orange in color. Choose firm to semi-soft tangerines with deep orange color that are heavy for their size. For the most antioxidants, choose fully ripened tangerines.  Avoid those that have soft spots or are dull brown or have traces of mold.

Store tangerines in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. The best way to store tangerines is loose rather than wrapped in a plastic bag, because if they’re exposed to moisture, they can easily develop mold.

Before cutting or peeling a tangerine, wash the skin so that any dirt or bacteria on the surface will not be transferred to the fruit. You can easily peel thin-skinned tangerines with your fingers.

Tangerines pair well with allspice, cinnamon, anise, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, mace, and rosemary.

To enjoy tangerines:

  • Eat tangerines as a snack: just peel and enjoy
  • Toss peeled tangerine segments into green salads
  • Use tangerines in a fruit relish
  • Tangerine segments, fennel, and cooked or canned beets make an exciting salad
  • Make a salad with grapefruit sections, either pink or white, along with orange and tangerine sections, over spinach or baby greens and some crunchy vegetables like kohlrabicelery, sweet onions, or jicama, and a creamy avocado dressing or one with a hint of fruity sweetness
  • For a refreshing salad, combine fennelonions, tangerines, and peppermint leaves
  • Serve a colorful salad of fennel, tangerines, cherry tomatoespumpkin seeds, and parsley leaves
  • Gently simmer sweet potatoes or winter squash with tangerine segments and ginger in orange juice, and sprinkle with walnuts just before serving

This blog uses the latest nutritional data available from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), and the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration), as well as nutritional data provided by food growers and manufacturers about their products. We believe the information on this blog to be accurate. However, we are not responsible for typographical or other errors. Nutrition information for recipes is calculated by Living Cookbook based on the ingredients in each recipe based on statistical averages. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

This blog is not a substitute for the services of a trained health professional. Although we provide nutritional information, the information on this blog is for informational purposes only. No information offered by or through this blog shall be construed as or understood to be medical advice or care. None of the information on this blog should be used to diagnose or treat any health problem or disease. Consult with a health care provider before taking any product or using any information on this blog. Please discuss any concerns with your health care provider.

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