It might be hard for Brits to believe, but Europeans actually like having pips in their mandarins. And that’s resulted in a challenge for consumers looking for satsumas in the UK. There are just fewer satsumas being produced as Spain and Morocco have concentrated on other types.
“Traditionally the European market preferred clementines, which are seeded,” says James Cackett, Citrus Fruit Technical Manager at Tesco. “About 20 years ago Spanish and Moroccan growers decided that the European market was more important to them and so many began switching production.
“So we needed to come up with a seedless alternative for the UK market and began a mandarin hybrid breeding programme which is now starting to really come to fruition.”
That long-term programme eventually bear fruit with the arrival of Meiravit, Havva, Orit and Sigal, which Tesco says are “more vibrant in colour, more aromatic, have fewer pips and are less susceptible to early season greening.” These could be the future of mandarins and may even supplant the clementine down the road.
“A hybrid is a cross between two varieties, and in this case that could be other mandarins, clementines, satsumas, oranges or even grapefruit,” says Bennie Smidt, Head of Agronomy at AMT Fresh, a huge importer of citrus fruit based in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire. “The resulting seeds within the fruits are the hybrids, which will need to be grown, selected, screened, and propagated if successful,”
“With the latest varieties of the mandarin hybrid we are now starting to see the best quality easy-peelers that have ever been available in the UK. This can take up to 20 years before it reaches the market in commercial volumes.”
Tesco and other retailers are banking on the popularity of these fruits to drive big sales in the future. Tesco said it has seen a doubling of the purchase of mandarins over the past six years.