Are clementine, mandarin & tangerine the same fruit?

It’s difficult to tell the difference between Mandarin, Clementine, Tangerine, and Satsuma because all belong to the citrus family and have the same ancestor. They’re the product of the ancient technique of crossbreed.[1]

Mandarin orange: the ancestor

Citrus family taxonomy is very complex.

What’s crossbreed?

In agriculture, producers try to keep the best properties between varieties. That’s a natural and ancient technic. For instance, if a citrus tree can withstand diseases better than other trees, farmers prefer this variety.

Nowadays, cultivated citrus trees are crossbred from more than two citrus species. This way we produce hybrids naturally. Crossbreed is the technique of selecting and combining the best varieties.

We want disease-tolerant, tasty, sweet, seedless, hot-tolerant, cold-tolerant, self-pollination, year-round fruit varieties.

Depending on the local demands, farmers have created tree varieties that are best-suited to the regional climate.

Clementine & mandarin are different citrus varieties

Citrus trees can easily be crossbred. Citrus varieties can:

  • look identical, but have totally different ancestors,
  • look completely different, but be identical genetically.

Almost all modern commercial citrus trees are the product of the combination of three wild species. These are citrons, mandarins, and pomelos.

The most popular hybrids of citrons are the lemons and limes. Furthermore, pomelos are the ancestor of the grapefruit.

Modern mandarin comes from the ancient mandarin orange variety.

Moreover, mandarin orange is the ancestor of clementine, tangerine, and satsuma.

Mandarin orange

Mandarin oranges come from ancient citrus species. This means that all modern “mandarin” varieties originate from mandarin oranges. It’s rather hard to find the differences between mandarin varieties.

For this reason, we usually refer to any small, easily peeled citrus, as mandarin. Botanically, it’s wrong, though. Every variety has a different name. But only professionals know the different mandarin hybrids.

So, nowadays, everything called mandarin, it’s actually a hybrid.

Mandarin grows from autumn to spring.

Mandarin is sweeter and the less sour than an orange. Also, you can peel it much easier. You can understand when a mandarin is ripe. It’s softer and heavier.

Clementine

Clementine is a citrus fruit hybrid. It comes from mandarin orange and sweet orange. It’s a hybrid from Algeria. Clementine gained popularity in the 19th century. It is believed to have gained its name from the garden of the orphanage of Brother Clément Rodier.

Tangerine

Tangerine is also a hybrid of mandarin orange. It started as a mandarin variety that came from the city Tangier in Morocco. Tangerines and tangerine hybrids continue to be grown commercially all around the world. 

Satsuma

Satsuma is a mandarin hybrid that comes from China. It’s one of the sweetest mandarin varieties. Satsuma is seedless and easy-peeling.

Satsumas love cold. The colder it gets, the sweeter they become. As a disadvantage, satsuma mandarin is a very delicate fruit. It needs extra care during gathering and transportation.

Differences of nutrition value between tangerine & clementine

Just 100 grams of mandarin oranges provide us with:

TangerineClementineDaily Value %
Water85.17g86.58g
Energy53 kcal47 kcal
Protein0.81g0.85g
Sugars10.58g9.18g
Fibers1.8g1.7g6%
Calcium37mg30mg3%
Iron0.15mg0.14mg2%
Magnesium12mg10mg3%
Phosphorus20mg21mg3%
Potassium166mg177mg6%
Vitamin C 26.7mg48.8mg65%
Niacin 376mcg636mcg4%
Vitamin B6 78mcg75mcg5%
Folate16mcg24mcg
Choline10.2mcg14mg6%
Vitamin A, RAE 34mcgNo Data4%
Lutein + zeaxanthin 138mcgNo Data
Nutrition facts of common mandarin varieties.

Both clementine and tangerine mandarins are low in calories. They are about 10% of sugars and contain decent amounts of fiber. Most noteworthy, they’re pretty rich in vitamin C.