Citrus unshiu is a seedless and easy-peeling citrus species, also known as cold hardy mandarin, satsuma mandarin, satsuma orange, Christmas orange, and tangerine. It is probably of Japanese origin and introduced elsewhere.
In Japan, it is known as mikan or formally unshu mikan (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 means "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). It is purple in color for most of the year, and only turns orange in the spring.
The Afrikaans name naartjie is also used in South African 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. 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 uniquely loose skin of the satsuma, however, means that any such bruising and damage to the fruit may not be immediately apparent upon the typical cursory visual inspection associated with assessing the quality of other fruits. In this regard, the satsuma might be categorised as a hit-and-miss citrus fruit; the loose skin particular to the fruit precluding the definitive measurement of its quality by sight and feel alone.
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. In 1916, a number of Japanese cultivars were introduced to Wenzhou. These, and new cultivars developed from them, now dominate orchards in Wenzhou. The traditional centre of satsuma production in Wenzhou is in the town of Wushan, in the Ouhai District of Wenzhou.. The satsuma's nickname of "Christmas orange" comes from its history as a Christmas treat in Britain.
Export to the West
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.
- Michel H. Porcher. "Sorting Citrus names". The University of Melbourne.
- Hanelt, Peter et al. (2001). Mansfeld's encyclopedia of agricultural and horticultural crops (except ornamentals). Springer. p. 1033. ISBN 3-540-41017-1. "(natural distribution) Japan"
- Wiersema, John Harry; León, Blanca (1999). World Economic Plants: A Standard Reference. CRC Press. p. 136. ISBN 0-8493-2119-0.
- "Plant Name Details: Rutaceae Citrus unshiu Marcow.". International Plant Names Index. "Original Data: Notes: Japon"
- "Taxon: Citrus unshiu Marcow.". Germplasm Resources Information Network(GRIN), United States Department of Agriculture. "probable origin Japan"
- Misaki, Akira (November 1999). "紀州有田みかんの起源と発達史(The Origin and the Development-Process of "Kisyu Arida Mikan(Arida Mandarin)")". 経済理論(The Wakayama Economic Review) (in Japanese) (University of Wakayama) 292: 97–118. "(After the many years of research, Dr. Tanaka has concluded the place of origin of Satsuma is Nagashima, Kagoshima. Satsuma is a chance seedling of Sōkitsu, Mankitsu, or Tendaisankitsu introduced from Huangyan Zhejiang, China. It appeared in the early Edo period.)" Archived by Arita Mikan Database at http://www.mikan.gr.jp/report/kigen/index.html
- Branford, Jean (1978). A dictionary of South African English. Oxford.
- "WWNO: Satsumas (2009-10-03)". Publicbroadcasting.net. 2009-10-03. Retrieved 2009-12-06.
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