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Dancy tangerines are small and have a round, flattened shape, measuring 5 to 6 centimeters in diameter. Some fruits will be slightly pear-shaped due to the presence of a small neck at the stem end. The smooth rind is a glossy, deep orange to red-orange color, and has a leathery texture. It is thin and easy to peel. Dancy tangerines have dark orange flesh that contains anywhere from 6 to 20 seeds. They have a sweet and tart flavor, with hints of spice.
Dancy tangerines are available in the late fall through the winter months.
Dancy tangerines are a variety of Citrus reticulata, sometimes classified as Citrus tangerina. They were the first American tangerine, and were the predominant variety grown and consumed in the United States for a majority of the 20th century. They were originally grown from the seed of a Moragne tangierine, which was introduced from and named for, Tangiers, Morocco. Its connection to this variety gave way to the name “tangerine,” which today is used to refer to any mandarin variety. Dancy tangerines are well-known as the parent variety of principal tangelos like the minneola, Orlando and Seminole, the fortune mandarin, and a contributing parent variety to the tahoe gold, yosemite gold and shasta gold mandarins.
Dancy tangerines are an excellent source of vitamin C, folate, and potassium. They also contain high amounts of vitamin A, beta-carotene and antioxidant-rich flavonoids.
Dancy tangerines can be used in both fresh and cooked applications. They are often eaten simply peeled and segmented. Segments can be added to green or mixed fruit salads, or added to cakes, muffins and tarts. The rind can be used for zest in baked goods, beverages or marmalades. The juice and pulp can be used for making jams, jellies, beverages, sauces, and vinaigrettes. Dancy tangerines pair well with aged and soft cheeses, chocolate, and herbs like basil and mint. Dancy tangerines will keep at room temperature for a few days and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.
The timing of the Dancy tangerine harvest season and its popularity around the December holidays earned it the nickname “Christmas fruit”. They often appeared in stockings, as a treat and inexpensive gift during the Great Depression and were a nod to the centuries old story of St. Nicholas placing gold in the stocking of the poor.
Dancy tangerines were introduced in 1867 by Colonel G. L. Dancy of Orange Mills, Florida. The Colonel received the seed from N.H. Moragne, whose tree was brought to Florida from Tangier, Morocco sometime prior to 1843. Originally referred to as a “tangierine” to mean “of or from Tangiers”, it was later simplified to ‘tangerine’. Commercial propagation of Dancy tangerines began around 1890, and by the turn of the 20th century, they were the leading mandarin variety in Florida. They were the first variety of mandarin citrus to be commercially processed into tangerine juice. The popularity of this variety began to wane after the 1970s, with the introduction of new hybrid fruits that were seedless and sweeter. Dancy tangerines fell out of favor with commercial growers and producers due to other more productive, hardier varieties and in 2012, there were no Dancy tangerines available in the marketplace. Since then, thanks to small farms and niche growers, the Dancy tangerine can be spotted at farmer’s markets and through specialty stores.