A mandarin orange is a slightly smaller relative of the standard orange. The tangerine and clementine are varietals of the mandarin, much in the same way gala and fuji are apple varietals.
Mandarins originated in China, hence the name. China is by far the largest grower and consumer in the world, with over 12 million tons harvested each year.
Tangerines arrived in Europe in the 1800′s by way of North Africa, where a large varietal was grown in Morocco. Exported through the port of Tangier, the fruit became know as Tangerine.
The clementine fruit is small and seedless, and has become very popular in the US. As it is sterile (no seeds), shoots need to be grafted onto other varietals. This varietal was created by a French missionary in Algeria over 100 years ago. His name was Marie-Clement Rodier.
Nutritionally, all mandarins are similar. For a 50 calorie mandarin, you get 2 grams of fiber, and just over 2 teaspoons worth of sugar. Each mandarin will provide half a day’s worth of vitamin C, as well as multiple other antioxidants.
Compared to oranges, mandarins are easy to peel and separate into individual sections. The clementines, being seedless, are a perfect snack for young children.
There, now you know!