Mandarin tree Photo: iStock

A less well known citrus is the ancient citron (C. medica). Unlike the others, it is valued for its thick, fragrant rind, used to make a candied peel, rather than its flesh, which is often dry, with inferior juice. The fruit has been used medicinally to treat lung and intestinal ailments and seasickness. It can grow incredibly large, weighing up to 5 kg, and can vary in shape, although most citrons resemble giant lemons. Yet another citrus is the Satsuma (C. unshiu), a good cold-climate choice.

Planning the crop
All these citrus species require a freely draining, fertile and preferably deep soil and a sunny, protected position. Although some varieties have cold resistance, they should not be planted in a hollow that is subject to frost. Prepare the soil well, incorporating generous quantities of rotted compost. Smaller varieties grow well in tubs – use a mixture of freely draining loam and well-rotted compost.

How much to grow- Where space permits, at least two mandarin and two orange varieties are desirable in a small orchard to ensure a long harvest period. The decision to include other citrus trees depends on family (and the cook’s) preferences.


Oranges- Recommended sweet orange varieties are: Seedless Valencia, a frost-hardy seedless variety that fruits in spring and summer; Washington Navel, well suited to cooler areas and bearing large, sweet, juicy, seedless oranges in winter and early spring; the earlier maturing Fisher Navel; Newhall, with abundant high quality, juicy fruits, ideally suited to subtropical districts; the brilliantly coloured Navelina; and Jaffa, an easily peeled, juicy, almost seedless variety. Excellent blood oranges include: Arnold Blood, suited to subtropical districts; Cara Cara, a pink-fleshed Venezuelan selection of the navel orange; Maltese Blood, a classic blood orange, highly productive and richly flavoured; Moro, well suited to coastal areas; and the spicy-flavoured, almost seedless Sanguinelli.

Grapefruit and pomelos- The very reliable yellow grapefruit Marsh’s Seedless is vigorous and heavy bearing, with large, juicy, sweet fruits. It is best suited to warm areas. Sweet-tasting pink grapefruit varieties have become popular in recent times and are excellent for juicing. Good varieties to grow include Star Ruby, with seedless, thin-skinned fruits and even, deep red flesh; Rio Red, with variable colour intensity; and the highly productive Flame. There are dwarf grapefruit trees available, usually grafted onto Flying Dragon rootstock. A grapefruit–orange hybrid, Honneff’s Surprise, is heavy cropping, with deep orange-skinned, exceptionally juicy and sweet fruits. A tropical citrus, the pomelo, or shaddock (C. maxima), resembles a large grapefruit and is often mistaken for one. The segments are much larger and sweeter. Excellent varieties include the seedless Nam Roi from Vietnam; the white-fleshed Flick’s Yellow; the juicy, lime-scented Tahiti; and pinkfl eshed Carter’s Red.

Mandarins and tangelos- By choosing a few different varieties, you can have mandarins from April to October. Early varieties are Honey Murcott (Murcott Tangor) from Morocco, with juicy, thin skinned, sweet fruits; Imperial, with a thin skin and excellent flavour; and Nules, an early, seedless clementine type. Emperor fruits from midwinter to early spring and has a puffy skin and richly flavoured juice, but is prone to dryness if left too long on the tree. It is a good choice for an ornamental espalier and for growing in tubs. Other late-maturing varieties include the seedless Pixie; Encore; popular, richly flavoured Ellendale; and the superbly flavoured but cold-sensitive Freemont. Sunburst is a cold-hardy, thornless mandarin with juicy, deeply coloured fruits. New, Californian-bred Daisy, with large, almost seedless fruits, will tolerate a wide range of climates.

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3 of 4 Comments

HM Editor on 12 December 2012 ,13:50

Hi Frank, producing sweet mandarin orange fruit is more about the location, correct pruning and variety of plant rather than the actual fertiliser used. Start by planting in a sunny spot so the leaves can photosynthesise creating sugar and water for energy, growth and a sweeter crop. Regular pruning so all the branches and fruit are exposed to sunshine, even in the middle of the tree, also encourages sweet fruit as a does a long, warm season. However, being in NZ, you my need to provide a micro-climate. This is done simply by transplanting the dormant tree after fruiting and replanting it against a north-facing wall. The radiant heat produced should encourage sweet fruit. This works particularly well with espaliered fruit trees. Good luck! Handyman Editor

frank on 10 December 2012 ,09:56

what kind of fertilizer can I use to make my mandarin orange fruit sweet

HM Editor on 07 August 2012 ,15:44

Hi Conny, dry grapefruits can occur if harvesting is delayed, if fruiting occurred late in the season or if the plant in question is young. Also, lack of water and excessive tree vigor can affect juiciness. Your location shouldn’t be a problem, as grapefruit can withstand a cooler climate compared with other citrus fruit which prefer a more tropical location. Hope this helps! HM Editor

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