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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Chow Line: Clementines chock full of nutrition (for 12/23/07)

December 14, 2007

I love those little clementine oranges. Do they have as much vitamin C as other oranges?

Ounce for ounce, clementines are a great source of vitamin C. But since they're smaller than the average orange, you'll get less of any nutrient than you would with larger pieces of citrus fruit.

The average clementine has about half the vitamin C of an orange -- 36 milligrams compared to 70 in a medium-sized (2 5/8-inch diameter) orange. And, just for comparison, a medium-sized half-grapefruit offers 44 milligrams of vitamin C, and a half-cup of raw pineapple has about 40 milligrams. A medium-sized apple has less than 10.

The recommended intake of vitamin C is 75 milligrams a day for women and 90 milligrams for men.

As a light snack, clementines have a lot of appeal. For a mere 35 calories, they're a good source of vitamin C as well as fiber, potassium, niacin and thiamin. Besides, they're easy to peel, and the bite-size segments come apart readily. They're usually seedless. And they're sweet and juicy, and readily available this time of year.

Like tangerines, the clementine is a type of mandarin orange, and it's the smallest mandarin available. Most canned mandarin oranges are made from another variety, the satsumas, originally from Japan.

The clementine was named after Father Clement Rodier, a French missionary responsible for the gardens at an orphanage in a small village in Algeria around the turn of the 20th century. In a planting of mandarin seedlings, he discovered an unusual hybrid had developed, and he was credited with the discovery. However, the clementine appears to be identical to the earlier-established Canton mandarin grown widely in several provinces of China.

Long thought to be a hybrid between the common mandarin and the bitter Seville orange, in 2002 the French National Institute for Agricultural Research determined that it's actually a natural cross between the common mandarin and the sweet orange.

If you get a clementine with seeds in it, that means it was grown too close to other varieties of citrus and bees did some cross-pollinating as they buzzed from tree to tree. Clementines are commonly grown in orchards isolated from other citrus trees to prevent that from happening.

The clementine was introduced in the United States in 1904, and now more than a dozen types are grown in California. Most are early-season types and reach maturity between September and November -- that's why you tend to see them in grocery stores this time of year. Some clementine varieties mature as late as January.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1044, or

Editor: This column was reviewed by Lydia Medeiros, professor of human nutrition in the College of Education and Human Ecology, a state specialist with Ohio State University Extension, and a researcher with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.

Martha Filipic
Lydia Medeiros