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Cleopatra tang’y’rines

Cleopatra tangerines

Tangy indeed! Pop one of the little segments into your mouth and you’re in for a sweet-sour surprise. The Cleopatra variety of tangerine is not shy about expressing its citrusy flavor, but it’s downright sour if you pick it too early. The best fruits are the ones that have just fallen off the tree, their tartness mixing with sun-ripened sweetness.

Farmer Margie peels a tangerine.

Cleopatras are a mandarin orange characterized by loose skin and small segments. (This is a variety that’s usually canned, not sold fresh, because of its tartness.) The fruit itself is small, no more than two inches across. The skin is edible, and has a high oil content, making it very aromatic and quite tasty. You can eat the skin fresh, or use it in cooking, like for for orange beef, to flavor oil for the dish.

The Cleopatra tree is usually used as rootstock, to graft another variety of citrus onto it, because it can tolerate cold and resists most diseases. It has been around for a long time, introduced from Jamaica to Florida before 1888.

During the winter season (January and February), the tree will be loaded down with fruit. The season for Cleopatras is starting to wind down, so get them while you can!

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