Don’t confuse a clementine with an orange.
Yes, they’re part of the same family; a clementine is just a tiny type of mandarin orange, small enough to eat in just a few bites. But they are very sweet, juicy, have virtually no seeds and a very thin edible membrane. Plus, their thin peel just slides away with almost no effort. They are the perfect citrus fruit for kids – small enough to fit in little hands, and so easy to peel that children can do it themselves.
Only a few years ago, clementines weren’t that easy to find in supermarkets. Up until about a decade or two ago, most clementines we got here were imported, often from Europe, where their growing season is short and sweet.
But once U.S. consumers started getting their hands on clementines, the demand grew. U.S. growers began planting more, especially in California. Today, at Brookshire’s, we carry two main brands of clementines:
Bagu: These are Spanish-grown clementines, and come in a five-pound wooden crate. Consistently sweet, and you’ll almost never run across a seed. Their season, however, is shorter, lasting only through January or February.
Cuties: California-grown, these are mandarin oranges, available in three-pound bags. Cuties have been developed to have a slightly longer harvesting season, and will likely be available through April. (Later in the season, Cuties are actually Murcott mandarins, which have the same small size, sweet flavor, thin skin and virtually seedless interior as the clementine.)
Which type you like better is largely a matter of taste. I’m partial to the Spanish ones, because I think they’re slightly sweeter, but either type makes a great snack or light dessert, especially this time of year, when you may be trying to atone for weeks of holiday indulging.
As a matter of fact, clementines are a great fruit to add to your diet. They are low in calories and high in Vitamin C. Eat three of them (and believe me, that’s not hard to do) and you will take in only about 100 calories, but you’ll meet your daily recommended daily intake of Vitamin C.