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Santang oranges are very small in size and are oblate to oval and slightly flattened in shape. The smooth, glossy rind is pebbled and pocked with many prominent oil glands and ripens from green to bright orange. The rind also clings loosely to the flesh, making it easy-to-peel, and the flesh is soft, juicy, and divided into 8-10 segments by thin membranes. Santang oranges contain little to no seeds and have a very sweet, mildly tart flavor.
Santang oranges are available in the late fall through early spring in Asia and Southeast Asia.
Santang oranges are very small fruits that grow on evergreen trees, reaching only 50-80 centimeters in height and are members of the Rutaceae family. Also known as Santang Madu, Jeruk Santang, and Santang Honey oranges, Santang oranges are native to China and have recently become popular in Indonesia as a specialty fruit and home garden variety. The small trees are easily grown in containers and bear many fruits throughout the season. Used as an ornamental adding bright colors to gardens and as a healthy snack food, Santang oranges are favored for their sweet flavor and small size, with some fruits being able to be consumed in one bite.
Santang oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C and also contain beta-carotene, fiber, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium.
Santang oranges are best suited for raw applications as their sweet flavor and miniature size are showcased when consumed fresh, out-of-hand. The fruits can be peeled and consumed whole, or they can be divided into tiny segments. In addition to eating fresh, the sweet orange may also be tossed into leafy green salads, stirred into fruit salads, or chopped into salsa. Santang oranges can also be layered on sandwiches, wrapped into fresh spring rolls, sprinkled into stir-fries, noodle dishes, and tacos, or served over desserts such as crisps, ice cream, compotes, and parfaits. Santang oranges pair well with avocado, bell peppers, red onions, green onions, edamame, carrots, red cabbage, strawberries, sliced almonds, peanuts, and walnuts. The small fruits will keep up to one week when stored at room temperature and for 2-3 weeks when stored in a bag in the refrigerator.
Santang oranges are a popular variety given as gifts to friends and family during the Chinese New Year and are favored for their small, novel size, sweet flavor, and uniform shape. Oranges, tangerines, and mandarins represent gold, good luck, and fortune due to the word’s similarity in sounds to one another in the Chinese language, and the fruits are used as decorations during the celebrations. Many restaurants will line their front doors with small orange trees to bring prosperity, and single fruits with a branch and leaves still attached are often used as a bow on top of gifts. Whole trees are also given as gifts and are traditionally offered with both hands as a sign of respect.
Santang oranges are native to China, but the exact dates and recorded history are unknown. Today the oranges are still cultivated in China and are also sold in commercial markets and grown in home gardens in Southeast Asia including Indonesia and Malaysia.