What Are Clementines?
Small but powerful, clementines pack a punch with their strong flavor and impressive health benefits. This citrus hybrid blends the best aspects of mandarin oranges and sweet oranges into a small, juicy fruit that is easy to peel.
When most Americans picture clementines, they think of a common, seedless variety known as Nules or Clemenules. These varieties are primarily grown in Spain and California. Other top seedless varieties include Fina and Algerian.
However, in Africa, Monreal clementines are the most popular. This variety includes seeds and is larger and sweeter than seedless types.
All clementines can be traced back to a hybrid believed to have come from Algeria in the early 20th century. French missionary Clément Rodier helped tend a garden where he used a horticultural technique known as grafting. This produced an early version of the clementine, which was later named after its creator.
People often confuse clementines with another type of a popular mandarin fruit, tangerines.
Clementines vs. mandarins
Clementines and tangerines are both types of mandarin oranges. Clementines are smaller and easier to peel. They are also seedless, making them an ideal snack for both children and adults. Clementines have smooth, shiny skin and have a deeper color than mandarins. Mandarins are generally flatter than oranges and, like clementines, are easy to peel because of their thin skin.
Clementines vs. tangerines
It's no surprise that these tangy little citrus fruits are closely related. A quick glance reveals plenty of similarities, such as both being smaller than a typical orange and having bright skin that is soft and easy to peel. However, these two fruits are not the same.
These two popular kinds of mandarins make up around 25% of citrus fruits grown around the world.
It's believed that tangerines (Citrus tangernina) are native to Southeast Asia.
Tangerines have slightly darker skin than clementines, and they can have a more reddish tone and feel more pebbly to the touch. Like clementines, their skin is easy to peel. Because they're similarly cold-tolerant, they're available during the same months—November to April.
Because tangerines and clementines are so closely related, they have very similar nutritional value.
Health Benefits of Clementines
Because they are naturally sweet, clementines work well as a substitute for products with added sugar. Their small size, easily removable peel, and sweet flavor make clementines a popular choice for parents who encourage their children to eat plenty of fresh fruits.
Health benefits associated with clementines include:
Clementines contain high levels of antioxidants, such as vitamin C, which play an important role in reducing inflammation. Research links excessive inflammation to several types of cancer. Diets high in anti-inflammatory foods, like clementines, may reduce the likelihood of developing cancer.
A single clementine contains 1 gram of fiber—an impressive amount given the fruit's low calorie count. High fiber intake encourages healthy digestion by adding bulk to your stool and making it easier to pass.
The vitamin C in clementines also promotes healthy digestion. Too little vitamin C can lead to reduced levels of hydrochloric acid, which helps your body break down and absorb nutrients. Hydrochloric acid also fights viruses and bacteria in your stomach to reduce the risk of infection.
Research reveals that people who eat citrus fruits on a regular basis are less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration. The flavonoids in citrus fruits may be responsible for this protection. While flavonoids can be found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, the type found in clementines seems to be especially powerful for promoting healthy eyes.
This is an easily absorbed carotene that supports immune function, vision, and cell growth.
Many of the fruit's health benefits are due to its high vitamin C content. This important vitamin helps with several key systems in your body, including your immune system. Clementines are also rich in flavonoids—plant compounds that can help reduce inflammation.
Clementines are a great source of:
Nutrients per serving
A single clementine contains:
- Calories: 35
- Protein: Less than 1 gram
- Fat: Less than 1 gram
- Carbohydrates: 9 grams
- Fiber: 1 gram
- Sugar: 7 grams
Clementine health risks
Clementines are a healthy addition to most diets when eaten in moderation. One thing to watch out for is their sugar content. The sugars in clementines are natural sugars and are often a good option for people to eat when they need to boost low blood sugar. However, consuming too much sugar could present problems for people with high blood sugar or people who are concerned about avoiding blood sugar spikes.
How to Prepare Clementines
Clementines can be found in most supermarkets and health food stores. Their peak season runs from October to January, making them an excellent choice when other types of fruit may be unavailable.
Many people grow clementine trees indoors at home. As houseplants, they are surprisingly easy to care for and capable of producing large quantities of fruits.
When choosing clementines, pay attention to their color. Avoid fruits that appear bruised or green. The scent of a clementine can help you determine whether it's ready to eat. When ripe, clementines will give off a strong, citrusy scent.
Clementines should be stored in ventilated containers or your refrigerator's crisper drawer. At room temperature, they stay for several days. Clementines stored in your refrigerator will stay fresh for up to 3 weeks.
Clementines can also be frozen for long-term storage. Prepare them for freezing by peeling and placing segments on a baking sheet covered in a wax paper. Freeze them for at least 15 minutes, then remove them from the baking sheet and place them in a plastic bag or other container.
Here are a few ways to add clementines to your favorite snacks and meals:
- Toss clementines with cabbage, sesame oil, and soy sauce to create a delicious salad.
- Blend clementines with frozen banana, honey, milk, and yogurt to make a flavorful smoothie.
- Add clementines to your favorite fruit salad.
- Combine clementines with yogurt, granola, and unsweetened coconut in a parfait.
- Roast them with chicken, carrots, and the Lebanese spirit arak for a modern take on a classic Middle Eastern dish.
- Serve clementines and cucumber as a side dish with grilled salmon.
- Infuse drinking water with clementines.
- Use clementines to add a hint of tang to a hot toddy.