Clementines are the small citrus in boxes or mesh bags that appear in markets during the winter months. This year’s crop is tasty, juicy and plentiful (prices are low!).
They’re great for snacking, dessert or in fruit salads. Clementines also make a wonderful addition to almost any green salad, or in my recipes for salads of whole grains and beans. Here are some recipes to get you started:
Clementine-Black Bean Salad
Spinach Salad with Clementines
Clementine-Wild Rice Salad
Fennel Salad with Clementines
In Canada and perhaps elsewhere clementines may be called mandarins. Technically clementines are a cross between mandarins (Citrus reticulata) and Seville oranges (Citrus auratium). The recipes can be made with any of the tangerine-sized citrus or with oranges sections cut into bite-size pieces.
To prepare clementines for salads, just peel and section. If they are large or you want more flavor from the juice in your salad, cut the peeled fruit in half cross-wise before you separate the sections.
Look for small, firm fruit. I find that the smaller clementines often have the best flavor, although they may be more difficult to peel. If you get a box with poor flavor, look for another “brand” (from the labels) and try again. They come from Spain, Morocco, South America and various other countries as well as the U.S., so they are now available pretty much year-round. I haven’t found any reliable way to tell which will taste best. If you can find the ones from California (usually labelled “California Cuties”, in mesh bags), they seem to be consistently good.
Orange or lemon peels can be grated (“zest”) for flavoring, but DO NOT try to use clementine peels this way — they are very bitter.
“Editorial note”: Just a few years ago no one had heard of clementines; now they are everywhere and they sell like hotcakes. I hope that food marketers will take note that SHOPPERS WILL BUY healthful foods if they are tasty, attractively packaged and reasonably priced. Vote with your pocketbook; buy lots and enjoy!