Field of Science

Real Life Fruit Quiz

Mrs. Phactor purchased a box of clementines the other day, but they didn't look quite right. First off they were quite round with a protruding nob on the stem end. Second the rind could be peeled away but it was quite tight. Third the network of veins around the sections wasn't evident and the sections did separate, they did not do so readily. Fourth the flesh, composed of juicy hairs, was yellow-orange, and tasted quite tart and more of orange than tangerine. Fifth most of the fruit's segments had seeds. Clementines are a hybrid and one parent is the mardarin orange/tangerine, but their fruit is flattened top to bottom with an easily removed orange rind, they have reticulate veins around the sections that are easy to remove, the sections separate easily, the flesh is orange with a sweet tangerine taste, and, as the label says, they're seedless, or nearly so. All of this leads the Phactor to think a smallish variety of tangelo, also a hybrid with a mardarin orange parent, were mislabelled (?) clementines and are giving them a bad name as they are not nearly as good. This citrus, whatever it is, has arrived only lately in several of our local midwestern markets. Have you any other opinions or ideas?
The decision was made to return them and the impertinent clerk, who had no idea who he was dealing with, wanted to know how anyone would know they weren't clementines? There are times one dusts off the PhD and pulls rank.


Matt DiLeo said...

Well done! I just bought a box from Florida that seem like clementines but are very bland. These fruit always seem so hit or miss. Do you find that certain growing regions/brands are consistently good?

The Phytophactor said...

The "clementines" in question were grown in Morocco, and prior to this purchase they had been consistently very good and very similar although grown in several different locales both domestic and foreign. Clementines are relatively new in our markets arriving in only the past few years, but this citrus fruit is new to me.

Anonymous said...

Shows what I know, they look like large lemons to me, but I'm not a citrus fan.

I'm looking for the brain of a botanist to pick, regarding a story I'm writing where some characters have been poisoned. I'm thinking of making it a form of Datura poisoning (no one actually dies, they just have a horrible couple of days). Would you or anyone you know with a similar education be willing to answer a few questions for me?

Anonymous said...

I had a similar experience when I told the produce guy at the supermarket that green potatoes contain toxic solanine and shouldn't be sold to customers. He smirked and said, "I've never heard of that."

Clementines were good in my area the first few years they were marketed in those largish boxes, but have since been inconsistent--sometimes good, sometimes awful. I've been buying Satsumas instead, which though not as smooth and pretty are consistently tastier.


CaveoCanis said...

I decided to be a responsible consumer and purchase the organic, locally-grown (I'm in Florida) clementines at double the price of the imported Spanish ones. They were hard to peel, less juicy, and were covered in mold in 3 days. Since then, I've bought several varieties of the 5 lb imported crates. The Cuties and Bagu varieties were equally good. Small, easy to peel, quite juicy, and fantastic flavor. The Darling brand is awful. I paid two extra dollars at Whole Foods for a large fruit with dry, wrinkled insides and a thick, difficult peel. I recommend Cuties and Bagu, hands down.

The Phytophactor said...

Continued sample very much confirms CaveoCanis'recommendation. A variety has appeared in our markets most confusingly labelled "clementine tangerines" but based on their shape and size they seemed likely to be a bad one. Clementine "Cuties" have been reliably good. Still haven't figured out if the bad ones are real clementines or not.