Sunday, January 24, 2010

Mikan oranges in the USA! Who knew?



I grew up in Japan, and my hands down favorite citrus fruit was the 蜜柑, the Japanese mikan (pronounced "mee kahn") tangerine. The rind peels right off like those Levi 501 button fly jeans, and the sweet, seedless flesh tastes oh so yummy. The peel had another bonus feature for teen boys -- it squirts orange oil when you squeeze it, so naturally we all thought it hilarious to blind our friends by spraying their eyes with the oil.

I left Japan in 1984 and lamented the nonavailability of the mikan along with some of my other Japanese favorites. What I only discovered in the last couple of years, however, is that mikan has been cultivated in North America since the 1700s! There's commercial mikan production in the California Central Valley and has been for decades.

What I didn't know is that these oranges are called satsuma mandarins here in the United States. There are even towns in the U.S. south called "Satsuma" after the Japanese orange groves planted there.

So now I know. We're at the tail end of mikan production in California now, so the oranges are pretty pricey at $2 and up per pound, and my family can go through 5 lbs of these in about three days. Clementines are similar to satsuma, though the satsuma is larger, is easier to peel and usually (though not always) tastes better.


naotoj said...

What I didn't know till now is that the origin of Mikan is from Wenzhou(温州), China, according to Wikipedia. Actually we do call it 温州蜜柑、but I really didn't know what 温州 meant.

bryantp said...

When I returned to Japan after a 30-year absence, mikans were one of the first things I wanted to have again. Korea has excellent ones also, particularly on Jeju-do Island. If you go there in season, they almost give them away, they're so plentiful.

m e l i g r o s a said...

now Im gonna think about 501s when eating oranges. citrusyyyy :D

GhostRider said...

If you squeeze the rind in front of a lighter or candle, you'll get a mini flamethrower, too. That oil is FLAMMABLE!

Dwainedibbly said...

Another nice thing about Satsumas is that they're very cold hardy, making it possible to grow them farther north than most other citrus. I'm in northern Florida and planted a dwarf Satsuma tree last spring. Recently we had a 2-week cold snap with several mornings below 20F and my little tree survived with only a sheet & blanket covering it.