What is the Difference Between a Tangerine and an Orange?
It’s round, orange, sweet, nutritious and has a fresh, citrusy scent. It’s an orange! No, wait…it’s a tangerine! Well, which is it??
It can be easy to confuse a tangerine fruit for an orange at first glance, but on closer examination these two fruits (while closely related) actually have several key differences. While both are members of the citrus family and look similar to one another, they are actually two different species of fruit. The difference between orange and tangerine begins with their origins.
Where Tangerines and Oranges Come From
Some people refer to a tangerine as a “tangerine orange” (probably because of their similar appearance), but oranges originated many years ago in Asia while tangerines were first grown in Florida (tangerines got their name because they were imported through the city of Tangier in Morocco during the 1800s). Like oranges, tangerines are members of the citrus family, but they are the fruit of the C. tangerina species, while oranges are the fruit of the X. sinensis species.
Oranges are a hybrid of mandarins and pomelos, while tangerines are a subgroup of mandarins. While all tangerines are mandarins, however, not all mandarins are tangerines. The fruit referred to as Halo tangerines are a mandarin brand name. A Satsuma tangerine and clementine tangerine also refers to varieties of mandarin that are not tangerines at all (though they are often marketed as such in the US and elsewhere due to their similarities to tangerines).
Though they are similar in appearance, there are a number of ways you can tell the difference between a tangerine and an orange:
- Size and shape. Oranges come in different sizes and slightly different shapes, depending on the variety. However, as a rule of thumb, oranges tend to be larger and rounder than tangerines. Tangerines are smaller than oranges and slightly flattened.
- Touch. Tangerines are softer to the touch when fully ripened, while ripe oranges are usually firm and heavy.
- Color. Both fruits are orange, but the shades vary. Tangerines are a dark reddish orange, while oranges typically a yellow-orange shade (blood oranges excepted).
- Flavor. The flavors or both fruits vary depending on the variety, but in general, tangerines are stronger in flavor than oranges, with a sweeter, less tangy taste.
- Peelability. While both tangerines and oranges are thin-skinned, the tangerine’s rind is looser and easier to peel, making it a perfect take-along snack.
Are Tangerines Good For You Like Oranges?
Tangerine health benefits are very similar to orange health benefits. Both fruits are made up mostly of carbs (there are about 13 carbs in a tangerine and 12 carbs in an orange), are high in water and contain almost no fat. Tangerines contain more vitamin A than oranges, though oranges are lower in calories (an orange contains 47 calories while a, in a similarly sized tangerine, calories come out to 53) and higher in vitamin C and fiber. (In a tangerine, vitamin C is half as much as in an orange.)
Both fruits are good sources of vitamins and minerals, including thiamin, folate and potassium. Because tangerine benefits are similar to an orange’s, either fruit can be a nutritious, low-calorie addition to your diet.
BONUS: another plus for tangerines – tangerine essential oil can be beneficial for your emotional well-being! Studies have shown that tangerine essential oil benefits include improved concentration, improve your sleep, and enhance your positivity.
What’s the Best Way to Enjoy an Orange or Tangerine?
That’s easy – one of the best ways to enjoy either fruit is simply to peel it and eat it! But both can also be used to great effect in salads, drinks and cooking – one of the more famous tangerine recipes is tangerine chicken, a delightful stir-fry that goes great with rice.
To sum up, tangerines and oranges have their similarities and differences, but both are nutritious and a healthful addition to your daily diet. Get acquainted with the many different and delicious varieties offered in stores and online (like those offered at Pittman & Davis)!