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Murcott Oranges (Honey Tangerines)

A lot of people understand that fresh oranges are best in the winter, but not many people understand that different varieties have particular seasons. You'll have better luck coming home with good oranges if you learn which varieties are in season when - and keep a simple guideline in mind when you're selecting them at the market. Oranges and all citrus fruit should be heavy in the hand for its size. This simple test and it's your most reliable guide for citrus fruit.

The Mandarin Family Oranges in the mandarin family include Tangerines, Tangelos, Mineolas (red tangelos), Murcotts, Temples, Clementines, and Mandarins ­ the grandmother of them all. They are basically peeling oranges that began as small, bitter fruits and have been developed by horticulturalists into sweet, easily peeled and eaten oranges.

Murcotts have gained a lot of popularity in the last few years. They’re usually marked "honey tangerines" in the stores. As much as I love Honeybells, Murcotts are my favorite of all the oranges. They’re even sweeter than Honeybells, with a slightly different taste. Murcotts are tangerine-shaped, but the rind is much tighter than the skin of a tangerine and has bronze speckles. They are a lot firmer and more difficult to peel than a regular tangerine ­ and loaded with seeds. Regardless of the difficulties they present, they’re worth it. Murcotts are great eating and make excellent juice, which is such a deep orange-gold it’s almost the color of a Halloween pumpkin. A pitcher of juice is so sweet it’s almost too sweet and needs to be cut with the juice of some regular Valencias. Grown only in Florida, Murcotts are in season from January through March.

Selecting Oranges

Whatever the variety, look for oranges that are shiny and heavy in the hand. It's a primary rule for a number of fruits, but it's especially important for oranges. Check the scent - the orange should smell good. Except for Robinson tangerines, the rind should never feel puffy - that is, it shouldn't feel like there's any space between it and the flesh. There should be no spotting, no signs of shriveling, no white patches on the rind, and no fermented smell.

Storing Oranges

Tangerines are the most perishable of the oranges. They will keep a day or two at room temperature and up to a week in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. Other oranges can be kept out at room temperature for three or four days with little problem. Refrigerate them in a plastic bag or in the crisper drawer, and they'll keep well for one to two weeks.


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