Can you spot the difference? Comparing Satsuma, tangerine and oranges

Auburn, Alabama — What do you know about an orange? Do you know what Satsuma is? What about a tangerine? All part of the citrus family, Satsuma, tangerines and oranges seem to be similar. However, the differences in each are enough to compare and contrast the three.

The difference

James Miles, an Alabama Extension regional agent in commercial horticulture, said that Satsuma and tangerines are a Mandarin type, loose skinned citrus. Though the same in that aspect, Satsuma are self-pollinating while some tangerines require cross-pollination, Miles said. The Mandarin has few seeds while the orange has many.

Next time you peel what you think is an orange, take a look at how difficult it is to do. The level of difficulty may be a determining factor in deciding which type it is.

“Orange tree types are sweet orange and navel orange. This fruit is tight skinned and takes a bit of work to peel,” Miles said.

Cold sensitivity

The biggest weakness and similarity of the three is the fact that all citrus is a cold sensitive crop. Any frigid wind or small frost could tarnish the trees.

“The citrus industry has been around since the 1920s. It was devastated by hard freezes. In the 1990s, growers started to revive the industry with new plantings and more research,” Miles said.

tangerineA good crop for the southernmost tier counties of Alabama, the citrus trees need proper preparation and shelter from the cold temperatures of winter.

“A freeze protection plan and system is highly recommended for any planting in Alabama. Especially in counties north of Escambia County,” Miles added.

Tree growth

The growing of the trees is fairly easy. Like all trees, insects pose a threat. Difficult to control and growing in numbers, some insects can have a lasting negative impact on citrus trees.

“Some insects that are difficult to control present a critical level of damage if not managed,” Miles said.

Tree costs range from $20 to $40 each depending on the size and variety. “The most common of the citrus in Alabama is Satsuma because it is the most cold hardy,” satsumaMiles said.

In Alabama, Satsuma begin to ripen in mid-October and peak in early to mid-November. This short window in the season has a lot to do with flavor profile development, Miles said.

“We need a few nights with the temperature in the 40s to really help improve the sweetness,” Miles added.

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