The tangerine (Citrus reticula L. var., sometimes referred as Citrus tangerina) is a group of orange-colored citrus fruit consisting of hybrids of mandarin orange (Citrus reticulata).

The name was first used for fruit coming from Tangier, Morocco, described as a mandarin variety. Under the Tanaka classification system, Citrus tangerina is considered a separate species. Under the Swingle system, tangerines are considered a group of mandarin (C. reticulata) varieties. Genetic study has shown tangerines to be mandarin orange hybrids containing some pomelo DNA. Some differ only in disease resistance. The term is currently applied to any reddish-orange mandarin (and, in some jurisdictions, mandarin-like hybrids, including some tangors).

Tangerines are smaller and less rounded than common oranges. The taste is considered less sour, as well as sweeter and stronger, than that of an orange. A ripe tangerine is firm to slightly soft, and pebbly-skinned with no deep grooves, as well as orange in color. The peel is thin, with little bitter white mesocarp. All of these traits are shared by mandarins generally.

Peak tangerine season lasts from autumn to spring. Tangerines are most commonly peeled and eaten by hand. The fresh fruit is also used in salads, desserts and main dishes. The peel is used fresh or dried as a spice or zest for baking and drinks, and eaten coated in chocolate. Fresh tangerine juice and frozen juice concentrate are commonly available in the United States.

Nomenclature and varieties

Tangerines were first grown and cultivated as a distinct crop in the Americas by a Major Atway in Palatka, Florida. Atway was said to have imported them from Morocco (more specifically its third-largest city Tangier), which was the origin of the name. Major Atway sold his groves to N. H. Moragne in 1843, giving the Moragne tangerine the other part of its name.

The Moragne tangerine produced a seedling which became one of the oldest and most popular American varieties, the Dancy tangerine (zipper-skin tangerine, kid-glove orange). Genetic analysis has shown the parents of the Dancy to have been two mandarin orange hybrids each with a small pomelo contribution, a Ponkan mandarin orange and a second unidentified mandarin. The Dancy is no longer widely commercially grown; it is too delicate to handle and ship well, it is susceptible to Alternaria fungus, and it bears more heavily in alternate years. Dancys are still grown for personal consumption, and many hybrids of the Dancy are grown commercially.

Until the 1970s, the Dancy was the most widely grown tangerine in the US; the popularity of the fruit led to the term “tangerine” being broadly applied as a marketing name. Florida classifies tangerine-like hybrid fruits as tangerines for the purposes of sale and regulation; this classification is widely used but regarded as technically inaccurate in the industry. Among the most important tangerine hybrids of Florida are murcotts, a late-fruiting type of tangor marketed as “honey tangerine” and Sunbursts (an early-fruiting complex tangerine-orange-grapefruit hybrid). The fallglo, also a three-way hybrid (5/8 tangerine, 1/4 orange and 1/8 grapefruit), is also grown.


Tangerines contain 85% water, 13% carbohydrates, and negligible amounts of fat and protein. Among micronutrients, only vitamin C is in significant content (32% of the Daily Value) in a 100 gram reference serving, with all other nutrients in low amounts.


According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word “tangerine” was originally an adjective meaning “Of or pertaining to, or native of Tangier, a seaport in Morocco, on the Strait of Gibraltar” and “a native of Tangier.” The OED cites this usage from Addison’s The Tatler in 1710 with similar uses from the 1800s. The adjective was applied to the fruit, once known scientifically as “Citrus nobilis var. tangeriana” which grew in the region of Tangiers. This usage appears in the 1800s. In India, it is called Narangi in Hindi (Hindi:नारंगी), Narangi means “Orange color” and hence it refers to the bright orange color of the fruit.

Tangerines and oranges are citrus fruits that are often confused for one another.

They both contain an assortment of nutrients, are relatively sweet in flavor and are generally low in calories.

But while tangerines and oranges are closely related, they are actually two separate fruits with some notable differences.

This article explains the key similarities and differences between tangerines and oranges.

Tangerines and oranges have similar qualities because they are members of the same family.

They may look alike, but they are actually two different species of fruit with separate origins and varieties.


Tangerines were first grown in Palatka, Florida. In the 1800s, they received the name “tangerine” because they were imported through the city of Tangier in Morocco.

Like oranges, tangerines are members of the citrus family, but they are the fruit of the C. tangerina species.

Tangerines are often labeled as mandarins, or vice versa, especially in the United States (1).

However, from a botanic standpoint, tangerines refer to a subgroup of mandarins. Most commonly, mandarins that are reddish-orange and brightly colored tend to be labeled as tangerines.

Tangerines are typically in their prime from late October through January.


Oranges originated many years ago in Asia, most likely in Southern China and Indonesia. Today, the vast majority of oranges are produced in Florida and Sao Paulo, Brazil (2).

They are the fruit of the Citrus x sinensis species and are also members of the citrus family (3).

Interestingly, oranges are hybrids of two fruits: pomelo and mandarin.

There are many different varieties of oranges. They can be divided into four classes, each with identifying characteristics:

  • Common or round: There are numerous varieties of common oranges, including Valencia, Hamlin and Gardner. The majority of oranges in this class are used for juice production.
  • Navel: Arguably the most common class of orange, this type actually grows a second fruit at the base which resembles a human belly button. Cara cara is a popular type of navel orange.
  • Blood or pigmented: With high concentrations of anthocyanin, a type of antioxidant pigment, blood oranges have a dark red flesh. The rind can sometimes possess darker red spots as well.
  • Acidless or sweet: This class of orange has very low levels of acid. Given their low acid concentration, these oranges are predominantly eaten and not used to make juice.

Peak orange season varies based on the variety. However, most oranges are in their prime from November through March.

They Have Different Appearances

The main distinction between tangerines and oranges is size.

Oranges come in different sizes and slightly different shapes, depending on the variety. However, as a rule of thumb, oranges grow to a larger size than tangerines.

Sometimes referred to as “baby oranges,” tangerines are smaller, somewhat flattened and generally less rounded, making them a perfect pocket-sized snack.

Tangerines are also softer to the touch when ripe, while oranges are usually firm and heavy when ripe.

Both tangerines and oranges range from having many seeds to being seedless, depending on the variety. For example, navel oranges are seedless, while Valencia oranges have seeds.

Lastly, tangerines and oranges can differ in color.

Oranges are typically more yellow-orange, except for the blood orange, which has a dark red color.

Although tangerines are similar in color to most orange varieties, they are typically more reddish-orange.

Their Flavors Vary Slightly

The flavors of tangerines and oranges vary, but it depends largely on the variety of each fruit.

Both tangerines and oranges can be sweet or tart.

However, most tangerines are less tart and sweeter than oranges. Tangerines also tend to have a stronger flavor profile than oranges and a shorter aftertaste.

One exception to this is the blood orange. Blood oranges have a distinct flavor profile that differs from most varieties of tangerines and oranges.

Blood oranges tend to have a very rich taste that is not overly sweet with a hint of berry-like flavor.

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