Superfood 101: Clementines!

Clementines were accidently created by Father Clement Rodier who was planting Mediterranean mandarin seedlings that pollenated with a willow-leafed ornamental variety of C. aurantium, commonly known as Granito, in the garden of an orphanage near Oran, Algeria. The plant was brought to Florida in 1909 and taken to California in 1914 by H. S. Fawcett of the Citrus Research Center, Riverside. There the commercial development and marketing of the fruit took place. In the extremely cold winter of 1997, Florida experienced a severe frost that affected the clementine orchards, causing a shortage of the Florida fruit. However, California had an abundant crop and they took over the market. Today, clementines are in season from mid-November through January and they make an excellent snack food. The sweet flavor makes them ideal for jellies, preserves, jams, and dessert recipes; they can be used in salads, and as an ingredient in sauces and salad dressing. Clementines have a rich nutritional value and contain many vitamins and minerals; they are also an excellent source of fiber.

In order to know what a clementine is a clarification is needed as to the differences between the mandarin, the tangerine, and the clementine. All of these are a derivative of the orange, a round, thick-skinned citrus fruit smaller than a grapefruit with a tart flavor. The mandarin is an Asian citrus fruit that is smaller and sweeter than the orange; it is not as round with a thinner and looser skin. The tangerine is a bright orange color with a tough, loose skin, shaped much like the mandarin but less sweet. The clementine is the smallest of the three with a red orange skin that is smooth, shiny, and loose.  The flesh is seedless with a very sweet flavor and they are also known as Cuties or Sweeties. They make refreshing flavored water.

Clementines have many nutritional and practical benefits.

1. Clementines contain minerals like potassium, phosphorous, calcium, and magnesium. They are rich in vitamin C and contain a significant amount of folate and fiber. Other nutrients include protein, zinc, vitamins A, D, K, E, B6, and B12.

2. Clementines are effective in reducing the risk of stroke because of their significant amount of calcium, zinc, and magnesium. Their potassium content relaxes blood vessels, thus reducing the incidence of high blood pressure (a factor in the risk of strokes) and reduces the incidence of contracting heart disease.

3. Clementines boost the body’s immune system due to the fact that they are rich in vitamin C, which defends the body from heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels in the circulatory system. It is also a factor in improving brain activity as in an increase in analytical thinking. This vitamin is also a major contribution to skin health, due to its antioxidant properties.

4. High in folate, clementines are beneficial to the circulatory system by strengthening red blood cells and supporting the production of DNA and RNA, the building blocks of cells. Folate also prevents the development of anemia.

5. Not only are clementines good for the body—they  are useful around the house, too. To clean countertops, cut a clementine in half and sprinkle with salt. Use clementine as a cleaner to keep bugs and vermin from coming into the house. Place the peeling on house plants to keep kittens from chewing on the leaves.

Clementines were developed by accident and are closely related to tangerines and mandarins. They are seedless, thin skinned, and sweet, making them ideal snacks for young children. Their nutritional value makes them an excellent food for expectant mothers by reducing the incidence of birth defects. Those suffering from circulatory diseases like high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and heart disease find clementines to control the symptoms. Their antioxidant qualities make clementines beneficial in reducing the risk of cancer and boosting the immune system. An excellent way to ingest clementines is in the juicing process.  Clementines are a versatile and healing food and belong on the superfood list.