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The best Satsuma mandarins have attributes that set them apart from lesser known varieties. Their red orange, leathery and oily peel is known as "zipper skin" as it clings so loosely to its flesh that it can be peeled with just a couple of tears. Left behind is a fragrant and juicy segmented flesh nearly ovoid of seeds. Though the flesh can be firm it is extremely juicy and sweet. Satsumas do not temper well with poor handling, though as their loosely attached skin bruises readily with pressure, upsetting its flesh and quality.
Satsuma tangerines are available during the fall and winter months.
There are over 100 different Satsuma, Citrus reticulata, varieties, appropriately labeled mandarins, many of which have a prefix "China" as these hybrids were originally received from Chinese cultivars. The most common name given to the Satsuma is Unshû mikan (Unshiu) of Japanese origin. It is the most significant mandarin variety in japan. Satsumas are becoming a competitive mandarin versus the more common tangerines such as the Clementine as they have high sugar content and their season starts earlier than most tangerine varieties.
Satsuma tangerines are most commonly eaten fresh, peel removed and separated into sections. They may also be used as a salad ingredient, in baked, frozen or fresh dessert preparations, or juiced and used in cocktails or smoothies. Pair satsuma with yogurt, endive, arugula, winter squash, leeks and pears. Use satsuma tangerines with sweet, spicy or Asian flavors such as soy, ginger, garlic, vanilla, honey and olive oil. Satsuma tangerines will keep at room temperature but should be refrigerated for longer storage.
The satsuma owes its given name to a former province in Japan on the southern tip of Kyushu Island where it is believed to have originated from a natural mutation. Documentation of the Satsuma's existence was referenced as early as 1429. It is one of the most cold-tolerant mandarin varieties withstanding temperatures below 15 degrees Fahrenheit. This allows for its fruits to mature early, though it does not necessarily bring the best quality fruits as the fruits needs warm temperatures to develop a suitable level of sugar content.
Recipes that include Satsuma Tangerines. One is easiest, three is harder.