The ever popular little fruit known as the tangerine is rich in history and tradition as well as being one of the tastiest, most nutritional and convenient-to-eat foods around. The tangerine is actually a member of the mandarin family of oranges and is known to have been cultivated in China and Japan more than 3,000 years before being introduced to the West two centuries ago. The tangerine is an important food source which contains essential nutrients and minerals such as vitamin C, beta-carotene, potassium, magnesium and many others. Tangerine oil, which is extracted from the peel, is used for both cooking and for medicinal purposes.
Tangerines are smaller than oranges, have a deeper orange skin, and the flesh inside is very juicy, usually with a mild, sweet taste. In the United States, the best time to eat tangerines is November through January, although when juiced at the right time, tangerine juice holds up to freezing very well. Otherwise, they should stay in the refrigerator no longer than seven days to maintain their great taste and nutritional value. The best tangerine to buy will be soft and puffy with a loose-fitting skin and feel heavy for its size. It should also be glossy and pebbly-skinned, but don’t worry if there are small green patches near the stem.
To get the most of its nutritional value, the best way to eat a tangerine is to peel it raw and eat its luscious juicy wedges right off the skin. Fresh tangerine wedges are also important ingredients to many healthful, nutritious recipes for meals and snacks at any time of day or night. The tangerine peel is also used not only as a decorative garnish or grating, but when dried and cured properly can also be eaten as a glaze or preserve, like marmalade or jelly.
Tangerine oil is extracted by a process of cold-pressing tangerine peel. The use of the tangerine oil for medicinal applications came from China and is now used the world over for natural healing of all sorts of conditions, both internal and external. It is perhaps most popular in the United States for aromatherapy benefits in cream, bath lotion or vapor form as the fragrance of tangerine oil has been shown to help soothe the nervous system and reduce tension and stress at the same time it boosts the digestive system.