In Season: Clementines

by in In Season, January 13, 2010

This little, fragrant citrus fruit makes its way into my kitchen every winter. Here’s why you should pick up a bunch today.

What, Where & When?
The clementine is the smallest variety of the mandarin-orange family. Other varieties in this family include dancy, satsuma and tangerine. Clementines resemble a slightly flattened sphere that’s about two-inches in diameter. They have a thin peel that slips off easily to reveal a tangy-sweet, red-orange flesh. Bonus: they’re typically seedless.

Cultivated in North Africa and Spain, these small fruits were introduced to the U.S. in 1882. You’ll mostly find them in specialty markets, but many locals supermarkets carry them now, too — often in larger cases. Their peak season is from October through January.

Nutrition Facts
At only 35 calories and completely fat free, clementines are an excellent snack choice. Eating a single fruit will cover 60% of your daily need for the antioxidant vitamin C. Clementines also contain small amounts of B-vitamins such as thiamin, folate and vitamin B-6 as well as heart-healthy potassium.

What To Do With Clementines
I always arrange fresh clementines in a basket on my kitchen counter for a beautiful kitchen display. This makes them easier to grab and snack on (and they’re always a better choice than cookies and chips). A peeled clementine usually makes its way into my 4-year-old’s lunch box at least once a week. Once peeled, the fruit easily separates into eight or more sections, which are easy for little fingers.

Beyond plain slices, clementines work well in muffins, marmalades or as a citrus-y burst in a spinach salad. The juice adds extra flavor to lemonades, cocktails and even tea. Here’s a tasty drink idea: Add two cups of clementine segments into a large cup and pour in a half cup of hot black tea. Throw in a pinch of cardamom and a touch of honey for sweetness. Dana loves to dip clementine segments in chocolate. She’ll share her recipe for that next week.

You will find canned mandarin-orange segments on market shelves, but these aren’t usually clementines — they’re a sister fruit called satsumas. You may also see clementine-flavored sparkling beverages, but check the labels to be sure you’re getting the real fruit.

Shopping Tip: Choose fruit with bright, shiny, colorful skin that are firm and heavy for their size. Avoid any that are bruised, wrinkled or discolored. Store clementines at room temperature or in a plastic bag in your refrigerator or crisper drawer for several days.

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