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Dancy tangerines are a small to medium-sized varietal, averaging 5 to 6 centimeters in diameter, and have a round, oblate, to pear-shape, sometimes showcasing a small neck on the stem end with a depressed apex. It is important to note that the fruit size may vary depending on climate and cultivation practices. The tangerine's rind is thin, making it easy to peel but also easily damaged. The skin has a smooth, glossy, and leathery appearance, pocked with tiny oil glands, and ripens from orange to dark orange-red. On some older fruits, the surface may develop a bumpy texture. Underneath the rind is almost no bitter white pith, and the saturated orange flesh is tender, aqueous, and succulent with a subtly chewy consistency. The flesh is also divided into 10 to 11 segments by white membranes, and each fruit can contain anywhere from 6 to 20 ivory, oval seeds. Dancy tangerines release a robust floral and fruity aroma when peeled, and the flesh has high acidity and sugar, creating a complex, sweet, and tart taste with rich, spice-like nuances.
Dancy tangerines are available in the late fall through the winter.
Dancy tangerines, botanically classified as Citrus reticulata, are an American variety belonging to the Rutaceae family. The mid to late-season tangerines develop on evergreen trees reaching 3 to 4 meters in height and are a slow-growing variety, taking 3 to 5 years to begin bearing fruit. Dancy tangerines, also known as Dancy mandarins, are one of the oldest varieties of tangerines grown in Florida and are a pure, nonhybrid mandarin favored for their sweet, tart, and tangy flavoring. The tangerines were once commercially grown for fresh use and processing. Throughout the beginning of the 20th century, Dancy tangerines were nicknamed Christmas tangerines for their presence in markets during the holiday season. The tangerines were the predominant type offered in consumer markets, but over time, they were removed from orchards in favor of modern cultivars. Dancy tangerines have thin, easily damaged skin, preventing them from being shipped long distances, and the fruits must be hand-harvested and clipped from the tree to avoid tears in the rind. The variety is also susceptible to diseases and tends toward alternate bearing years, creating an unreliable crop for commercial growers. Dancy tangerines have faded from production in the 21st century, but the variety is still being grown as a novelty in home gardens and select private orchards.
Dancy tangerines are an excellent source of vitamin C to strengthen the immune system while reducing inflammation, folate to develop DNA and RNA, fiber to regulate the digestive tract, and potassium to balance fluid levels within the body. The tangerines also provide vitamin A to maintain healthy organ functioning, antioxidants to protect the cells against the damage caused by free radicals, and other nutrients, including magnesium, B vitamins, phosphorus, copper, manganese, and iron.
Dancy tangerines have a sweet-tart flavor suited for fresh and cooked preparations. The variety is popularly peeled, segmented, and consumed straight out of hand, or the segments can be tossed into salads, mixed into fruit medleys, or stirred into grain bowls. Dancy tangerines can also be sliced into salsa or relish, dipped in chocolate as a sweet treat, used as an edible decoration on cakes and other desserts, or layered into parfaits. In addition to fresh preparations, Dancy tangerines can be simmered into sauces for roasted meats, cooked into jams, jellies, marmalades, and other preserves, or infused into dressings and marinades as a bright addition. Try simmering Dancy tangerines into a glaze and drizzling it over seafood, beef, or poultry. Dancy tangerines can be baked into tarts, muffins, cupcakes, cakes, and cookies, and their zest can be shaved over panna cotta, crème brulee, or folded into whipped cream. Beyond culinary dishes, Dancy tangerines are pressed for their juice and are mixed into smoothies, cocktails, lemonade, fruit punch, and sparkling beverages. The variety is known for producing a rich, complex, and well-flavored juice and is consumed as an alternative to common orange juices. Dancy tangerines pair well with cheeses such as gouda, goat, cheddar, and gruyere, herbs including basil, mint, and cilantro, chocolate, ginger, and vanilla. Whole, unpeeled Dancy tangerines will keep for a few days when stored at room temperature and for 1 to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
Dancy tangerines were named after Colonel Francis L. Dancy, a prominent public figure in Florida throughout the 19th century. Colonel Dancy began his career as a soldier and was later hired as a civil engineer. He gained public notoriety for his leadership in the Seminole War and for building the St. Augustine sea wall, eventually leading him to be elected as the mayor of St. Augustine and to the Florida State House of Representatives in 1841. Colonel Dancy also served as Florida's State Engineer and Geologist, and in his spare time, he experimented with plants on his property known as Buena Vista. Colonel Dancy especially loved citrus, and throughout the 19th century, he encouraged farmers to grow citrus to plant for a profitable future. He also discovered that cutting citrus trees to stumps would strengthen the root system to make it more resistant to freezes and that diversification of citrus plantings could prevent cop devastations from insect infestation and diseases. In the modern day, Colonel Dancy was regarded among scientists as one of the most influential advocates for the Florida citrus industry in the 19th century. Colonel Dancy's most famous achievement, the discovery of the Dancy tangerine, was the most popular citrus variety in Florida well into the late 20th century. Dancy tangerines were also one of the first varieties to have a tangerine label. The tangerine's parent variety, the Moragne mandarin, was imported to Florida from Tangiers, Morocco. The citrus was initially referred to as "tangierine," meaning "of or from Tangiers." Tangierine was later simplified to tangerine for easier spelling and pronunciation. When Dancy tangerines were released to commercial markets, they made history by being the first cultivar labeled as tangerine.
Dancy tangerines were discovered in Orange Mills, Florida, in the garden of Colonel Francis L. Dancy. The Colonel acquired seeds of Moragne tangerines from N.H. Moragne, who owned property in Palatka, a city in Putnam County, Florida. Moragne tangerines were initially carried from Tangier, Morocco, to Florida through a man named Major Atwater, and the variety is thought to be a descendant of fruits from Asia. Atwater's property was eventually purchased by N.H. Moragne in 1843. Colonel Dancy took some seeds and planted them in his garden. In 1867, the tree produced fruit, and the fruit was distinct from its parent tree. By 1872, Dancy tangerines were increasing in recognition, and Colonel Dancy began distributing cuttings to other growers to expand production throughout Florida and Cumberland Island, Georgia. In 1877, the Pomological Committee of the Florida Fruit Growers Association recognized Dancy as a new variety. After Colonel Dancy's passing in 1890, the rights to Dancy tangerines were sold to Rolleston Nursery of San Mateo, Florida. Rolleston Nursery began commercially cultivating Dancy tangerines, leading them to become one of the most popular varieties in Florida in the early and mid-20th centuries. Dancy tangerines were also planted in California and Arizona and were the first American variety to be commercially processed into tangerine juice. In the 1970s, Dancy tangerines declined in production due to their inability to be shipped long distances, lack of fruit uniformity, low disease resistance, seedy nature, and alternate bearing nature. The variety was replaced with modern commercial cultivars that were larger and had improved cultivation practices, along with a seedless nature. Despite their fall into obscurity, Dancy tangerines were an essential cultivar in breeding programs. Dancy tangerines are a parent variety to Fortune, Orlando, Minneola, Seminole, Sampson, Frua, Tahoe Gold, Dweet, Mency, Shasta Gold, Yosemite Gold, and Pixie. Today Dancy tangerines are not commercially cultivated and are a specialty variety produced on a small scale among select growers throughout the United States. The variety is primarily grown in Florida, Arizona, and California and is found in farmer's markets, distributors, and home gardens.