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Sunburst's tangerines name comes from the sun shape on the stem end. Each oblate fruit is around two and a half to three inches in diameter with a flattened stem end. The skin is brilliant dark orange, smooth, and fairly thin, and like most tangerines, easy to remove. The flesh has few seeds and a lot of juice, and tastes intensely sweet with some acid.
Sunburst tangerines are available in the late fall and winter months.
The Sunburst is one of the most popular varieties of tangerine (Citrus reticulata Blanco). The first Sunburst was produced in 1961 from a cross of the citrus hybrids Robinson and Osceola, although it wasn't released commercially until 1979. Tangerines are members of the mandarin family, along with clementines, tangelos, and mineolas. Tangerines have been bred over the years to be sweet and easy to peel, and the Sunburst is no exception.
Tangerines are very high in Vitamin C, and contain half of the daily recommended value. They are low in most nutrients and in calories, but have some fiber, potassium, and folic acid, as well as two teaspoons of sugar.
As a snack fruit, tangerines are some of the best since they are portable and easy to eat. Simply peel open and remove the white, bitter pith from the flesh. For slightly more complicated preparations, add them to salads, use them as a garnish for main dishes, include in seafood dishes, or bake into desserts. The best Sunbursts will have the richest color and unblemished skin, feel heavy, and smell fresh. Tangerines are more perishable than other citrus, so keep them at room temperature for two days at most, or a week in the refrigerator.
Tangerines of all types are often part of Chinese New Year celebrations. They are considered symbols of happiness and prosperity, and are eaten and displayed in residences, stores, and offices around the holiday.
The mandarin family of citrus originally came from China, but has traveled all over the world. Tangerines are named after their route of entry into Europe, by way of the port of Tangier in Morocco. The Sunburst is a more recently developed American variety of tangerine, and is commercially produced in Florida.