Citrus fruits are small evergreen trees, originating in many areas of Asia, which have been cultivated for millennia; from Asia these trees arrived quickly in Europe, and especially in most of the Mediterranean area; only in fairly recent times were citrus plantations planted on the American continent. For the botanists it was not easy to attribute the various citrus fruits to species and varieties, since most of them are hybrids; in general, as in the case of lemons, these are not modern hybrids, but plants that have hybridized (perhaps naturally) several hundred years ago. Only research through the study of plant DNA could shed light on the nomenclature and systematics of citrus fruits. Nowadays it is believed that there are three original species of citrus fruits, from which all the others have descended through time through hybridization; the three original citrus species are mandarin (Citrus reticulata), cedar (Citrus medica) and pomelo (Citrus maxima, or Citrus grandis). In fact it is not easy to define what a mandarin is, since in Italian, with the term mandarin, it indicates the Citrus reticulata, all the varieties derived from it, but also the crosses with oranges of any kind, which should be called mandarancies or clementines . The mandarin is a small evergreen tree, about 2-3 meters tall as an adult; it has smaller leaves than the other citrus fruits, quite leathery, dark green; the flowers bloom in spring, are fragrant, and appear at the apex of the branches, single or in corymbs that can count 3-5 flowers; they are very fragrant, like the flowers of most citrus fruits. The fruits are present on the tree from autumn until winter, for a fairly short period of time; the mandarins are small, and light in color, often have the skin slightly detached from the pulp, which gives the fruit a dented appearance. The aroma of mandarin is decidedly particular, and is generally present only in botanical species; hybrids such as clementines and mandarin oranges do not have the typical taste of mandarin, but rather that of oranges.

Some species of mandarinCitrus reticulata

Mandarins are small trees or large shrubs, originating in Asia; the fruits are light in color, and have a very sweet taste and a small size; they differ from other small citrus fruits in having a flattened shape, with a slight depression where the petiole sticks to the fruit. They are very fragrant and quite simple to cultivate; these citrus fruits resist frost well enough, but generally saplings grown in areas with very cold winters tend not to bloom or lose most of the flowers and fruits. The foliage and flowers are very aromatic. There are very many mandarin hybrids, generally hybridized with oranges, to give rise to sweeter, seedless fruits, or with the skin better attached to the pulp; this last characteristic is that which is almost always present in the different varieties of mandarin or in the hybrids, this because the mandarins with the peel slightly detached from the fruit tend to spoil during transport, and are therefore more difficult to spread on the market.

Citrus x deliciosa

Mandarins and mandarins are among the most cultivated citrus fruits in the world, the small size and the very sweet taste has made them very widespread and sold fruits, even more than oranges, which can have a slightly sour taste, not very pleasing to many. For this reason there are several tens of varieties of mandarins, most of which we could call more properly mandarancins; the mandarancio has a darker pulp and peel than the mandarin, and the peel is better cohesive to the fruit, while remaining very easy to detach from the fruit (another characteristic that often makes these fruits prefer to oranges). The trees are not unlike those of the mandarins, while the fruits are easily distinguishable, as they are round, compact, with the skin less grainy and darker, often very thin. Citrus x clementine, or clementines, are also very widespread: seedless mandarancies. Some varieties of mandarins are classified under the name of Citrus reticulata Blanco, and are believed to be a hybrid of mandarins and sweet oranges (Citrus sinensis). Mandarancins and clementines have a sweet and aromatic taste, very similar to that of oranges, and not the typical aroma of mandarins.

Citrus x maclurensis or even x citrofortunella microcarpa

Although this citrus no longer belongs to the citrus genus, apparently it is a real mandarin orange; it is a hybrid, cultivated for centuries in China and the Philippines, between mandarin and kumquat, with probably subsequent crosses with unknown varieties of citrus fruits, naturally present in the areas of origin. These mandarancies are small, often the pulp matures before the peel, and therefore when ripe they can be green, like simple and normal files; the pulp has a rather sour taste, not like limes, but more like lemons; the peel is instead like that of kumquats, that is sweet and aromatic. For this reason, calamondini are usually eaten whole, with the skin that gives sweetness to the pulp.

Citrus x tangerina

Tangerines are widespread mandarancies, especially in the American continent; they are hybrids with a very similar appearance to mandarins, therefore with fairly large and slightly crushed fruits; the peel is thick and aromatic, and dark orange in color; often the pulp has reddish veins, as happens in blood oranges. In Italy the tangerines are not very widespread, although their origin is not so remote: even the name suggests it, and it seems that these mandarabans were hybridized for the first time in Tangier, in Morocco, and exported from there to the American continent.

Citrus x unshiu

Mandarancins originating in China, are often called Satsumas, from the name of the Chinese province from which they come; they have large fruit, compared to mandarins, crushed and compact with a very fine skin; the main characteristic of these mandarancies is the fact that usually the pulp matures well before the peel takes color, and therefore it is easy to find them on the market still green, like the limes, with the sweet, juicy pulp, and of a bright orange color dark. In Italy, a particular variety of these mandarancins, called miyakawa, is typically found on the market and they mature at the beginning of autumn. The varieties widespread in Italy are similar to the basic hybrid, meaning that when ripe they have a completely green skin; however, many modern varieties exist, whose ripe pulp together with the peel.

Growing mandarins

Mandarins are small trees or large shrubs of tropical origin, which develop naturally in most of Asia; they are fairly resistant plants, which can survive without problems even in very intense frosts, up to -10 ° C; the fundamental problem lies in the fact that the fruits are present on the plant during the cold months, and sudden frosts can make them fall before they ripen; in addition to this, plants grown in very cold areas tend not to supply or produce very scarce blooms. For this reason, the cultivation of mandarins takes place in areas with a mild climate, with winter temperatures above zero, or characterized by short frosts and slight entity. The mandarins need a fresh soil, very well drained and rich; therefore before planting a small tree it is good to enrich the soil with manure, and add sand, which allows a correct flow of water, without forming water stagnations, which can quickly cause the development of rot. Watering must be regular, especially in summer, and it is essential to avoid leaving the plant dry for long periods of the year. In orange groves it is usually used to install drip irrigation systems; this is because it is important to provide regular watering, but without excessively soaking the soil. The winter watering will instead be sporadic, to be provided only when the soil is well dry, and the days are not very cold. Pruning and dwelling is carried out at the end of winter, generally removing the branches that excessively thicken the foliage; usually, on trees that have been dwelling for a long time, pruning is very light and not very invasive.

Pests and diseases

One of the biggest problems with mandarins is watering; in the collective imagination these trees are Mediterranean plants, so they are often cultivated in conditions of full sun, great heat and sporadic watering. This type of cultivation brings plants to a state of constant suffering; those who try to make up for it often tend to water with excessive regularity, causing water stagnation and radical rot. In addition to this, citrus fruits washed down with tap water at home often tend to show chlorosis, caused by excess of some harmful salts in the soil, and a lack of bio-available iron. All these problems can be solved simply by supplying a good fertilizer (possibly with a slow release at the beginning of spring) and watering with non-calcareous water and with good regularity, whenever the soil is very dry.
Sprouts are often attacked by aphids, especially at the beginning of spring. In the case of cultivation in poorly ventilated and very hot conditions, cochineals and mites are easily developed, which conspicuously ruin the foliage and can cause a shortage of flowers and fruits.

Grow a mandarin in a vase

The citrus trees have a very decorative appearance, the dark foliage is very fragrant, as are the flowers that bloom in late spring; for this reason, very often the mandarins are also cultivated in areas with very cold winters, placing them in pots, to be able to shelter them from the cold when winter arrives. Pot cultivation presents particular salient problems. First of all, it is necessary to repot these small trees at least every 2-3 years, to restore the fertility of the soil, adding it again to the pot; in addition to this the root system needs to be able to develop at its best, and therefore it is essential to provide a more capacious container over the years. Also very important is the quantity and quality of the water supplied, which must be free of chlorine and limestone and must be supplied regularly, but avoiding soaking the soil or leaving it wet for a long time. In areas with very cold winters, the first cause of death or loss of foliage by mandarins is caused by drought and not by frost. In fact, to protect a potted citrus from frost, it is sufficient to place it in a sunny place, close to the house and away from the wind. But it will be fundamental to supply watering even during the winter period, especially if the plant is not exposed to the elements and is covered by plastic material, to protect it from the cold. Watering should be provided preferably on days that are not too cold, and they should be not very abundant: simply moisten the soil.

Mandarin: The fruits of citrus fruits

Citrus fruits produce very special fruits, called esperidi; these are large-sized berries, made up of an outer skin, called flavedo, of a green, yellow or orange color, very aromatic and rich in essential oils; inside the peel becomes spongy, dry, white in color and soft in consistency, it is called albedo and often has a very bitter taste. Inside the peel the fruit is divided into segments, called segments, consisting of a thin film inside which are present the seeds and tiny vesicles full of aromatic juice, very rich in vitamin C. All citrus fruits show these characteristics, and yes then they differ in color, taste, aroma, size and shape. Apart from the lemons, all the other citrus fruits must be picked perfectly ripe from the tree, because once they are picked the maturation stops; in particular, most of the citrus fruits first ripen the peel pulp, especially in the areas of origin, where citrus fruits keep the green skin even when completely ripe. Some green areas or a completely green color may therefore mean nothing with regards to the maturation of the citrus fruit pulp, which should be tasted before harvesting to know if they are already sweet and juicy. As far as mandarins are concerned, the harvest must be carried out with great care, since the thin skin, or slightly detached from the pulp, can easily break when the fruit is detached from the small, causing a more rapid deterioration of the fruit. For this reason, usually mandarins and mandarin oranges are harvested by cutting with the shears part of the petiole, and therefore they are often provided with small and some leaves.
  • Mandarin tree

    Mandarin is a citrus fruit that is cultivated, especially, in most countries

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