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Citrus unshiu is a seedless and easy-peeling citrus species, also known as cold hardy mandarin,[1] satsuma mandarin,[1] satsuma orange,[1] Christmas orange,[citation needed] and tangerine.[1] It is probably of Japanese origin and introduced elsewhere.[2][3][4][5][6]

In Japan, it is known as mikan or formally unshu mikan (Japanese: 温州蜜柑, unshū mikan). In China, it is known as Wenzhou migan (Chinese: 温州蜜柑; pinyin: Wēnzhōu Mìgān). The Japanese name is a result of the local reading of the same characters used in the Chinese. In both languages, the name meaning “Honey Citrus of Wenzhou”, Wenzhou being a city in Zhejiang province, China. It is also often known as “Seedless mandarin” (Chinese: 无核桔; pinyin: wúhé jú).

One of the English names for the fruit, “satsuma”, is derived from the former Satsuma Province in Japan, from which these fruits were first exported to the West.

The Afrikaans name naartjie is also used in English. It derives originally from the Tamil word nartei meaning citrus. The word has been used in South Africa since 1790, but the first written recorded English use is by Lawrence Green in the Tavern of the Seas, 1947.[7] The “tjie” on the end of naart, indicates a diminutive.


Its fruit is sweet and usually seedless, about the size of other mandarin oranges (Citrus reticulata), smaller than an orange. One of the distinguishing features of the satsuma is the thin, leathery skin dotted with large and prominent oil glands, which is lightly attached around the fruit, enabling it to be peeled very easily in comparison to other citrus fruits. The satsuma also has particularly delicate flesh, which cannot withstand the effects of careless handling. The loose skin, however, means that any such bruising and damage to the fruit may not be immediately apparent.


The Chinese and Japanese names reference Wenzhou, a city in the Zhejiang Province of China known for its citrus production. However, the satsuma originates from Japan.[2][3][4][5][6] In 1916, a number of Japanese cultivars were introduced to Wenzhou.[citation needed] These, and new cultivars developed from them, now dominate orchards in Wenzhou.[citation needed] The traditional centre of satsuma production in Wenzhou is in the town of Wushan, in the Ouhai District of Wenzhou.[citation needed].

Export to the West

The fruit was brought from Asia to New Spain by Jesuits. Groves started by Jesuits in the 18th century in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, have continued to the present day.[8]

The fruit became much more common in the United States starting in the late 19th century. In 1876 during the Meiji period, satsumas were brought to the United States from the Satsuma Province in Kyūshū, Japan by a spouse of a member of the U.S. Embassy. While the species originates from Japan, it does not originate from the Satsuma Province in particular. The towns of Satsuma, Alabama; Satsuma, Florida; Satsuma, Texas; and Satsuma, Louisiana were named after this fruit. By 1920 Jackson County in the Florida Panhandle had billed itself as the “Satsuma Capital of the World.” However, the commercial industry was wiped out during a very cold period in the late 1930s. It has been planted in colder locations, because of its cold-hardiness and because colder weather will sweeten the fruit. A mature satsuma tree can survive down to –9.5 °C (15 °F) for a few hours. Of the edible citrus varieties, only the kumquat is more cold-hardy. Satsumas rarely have any thorns, an attribute that also makes them popular. They can be grown from seed, which takes about 8 years until the first fruits are produced, or grafted onto other citrus rootstocks, trifoliate orange being one of the most popular.

Written on June 11th, 2012 , Fruits Tags:

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