How did a relative of the tangerine become a tangelo? The mandarin orange (or tangerine) has been combined with other citrus fruit creating more interesting choices, which is the case of tangelos. Some believe that tangelos originated some 3,000 years ago in Southeast Asia, yet others consider it a hybrid of tangerines and grapefruit. There are people on both sides of this debate which reminds us of those still debating how to pronounce tomato. I’ll venture out there and say the tangelo is a hybrid.
Even back in 1897-1898 the United States Department of Agriculture were working on hybrids of mandarin oranges and grapefruits. Two prominent men came to the forefront in this work: Dr. Herbert J. Webber (Riverside, California) and Dr. Walter T. Swingle (Florida). Later documentation actually credits W.T. Swingle with creating the hybrid in 1911. The hybrids were so unlike other citrus fruit that they were set aside in a class by themselves, Citrus X tangelo.
You may find these particular products of hybridization in these “breeds” of tangelos in your grocery store: Minneola tangelo or minneolas and Orlando tangelos among others. The Orlando tangelo was known by the name of Lake Tangelo when first cultivated, and it is one of the more cold-tolerant varieties.
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Tangelos are related to grapefruit, but with the new “breeds” mentioned above they do not contain the furocoumarins that grapefruit have. They are, however, filled with healthy goodness, perfect for any afternoon snack. Tangelos are noted for their juiciness and mild flavor. Minneola tangelos have a smooth to slightly pebbled texture, few if any seeds, and peel very easily. You can find them available from mid December through April.
Orlandos and Minneolas are popular Tangelo varieties. I’m sure you’ve seen the most plentiful and most popular tangerine variety, the Minneola tangelo because it is easily identified by the characteristic knob-like formation at the stem end.
Tangelos are rich in flavonoid compounds, in dietary fiber, and have a variety of essential vitamins and minerals: vitamin A, vitamin B-6, riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, and of course, vitamin C. They will retain more of their vitamin content if consumed raw, with only 32 calories per tangelo.
According to a study done in 2012 with over 70,000 women participating and published in the medical journal “Stroke”, researchers concluded that the flavonoids in tangelos and citrus fruit may have an anti-inflammatory effect that protects blood vessels. They agreed that high flavonoid intake may also reduce the risk of asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease and neurological disorders caused by aging. It shouldn’t be a surprise that God would make this fruit so healthy for us.
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