Florida Tangerine Peel Oil – The Changing Cultivar Landscape

Citrus fruits have been a valuable and prized flavor and fragrance ingredient for thousands of years. The ability of citrus to easily crossbreed has provided us with a large family of different fruits, many with very unique and interesting organoleptic properties. From the world’s most popular fruit, oranges, to specialty fruit like bergamot, the many citrus species are important raw material sources for the flavor and fragrance industry.

One important family of citrus varieties is the mandarins. These easy-to-peel fruits with a deep, reddish-orange color and interesting fl avor are prized worldwide as fresh fruit. Although the dominant growing areas for mandarins have been China and the Mediterranean, mandarin cultivation in Florida has been carried out since the mid 1800s. In Florida, the mandarin varieties (and related hybrids) are usually referred to as tangerines, tangelos and tangors. Although the essential oils of Florida tangerines are noticeably different from mandarin fruits grown in Europe or China, these essential oils have found an important place in the repertoire of ingredients in our industry. Unfortunately, changing market conditions are radically altering the balance of tangerine cultivars grown in Florida and consequently the availability of these important raw materials.

Tangerines have been grown in Florida since at least 1825. The fruits were primarily grown for the fresh fruit market and provided a nice compliment to the morecommon oranges because of their distinctive color, flavor, as well as the “easy-to-peel” characteristic. With the subsequent development of the large-scale orange juice conce trate industry after the 1940s, the addition of tangerine juice to orange juice provided a cost-effi cient means to add desirable color to orange juice produced from early-ripening, but color-poor orange varieties. This practice was codified in the USDA standard of identity for orange juice which allowed up to 10 percent tangerine juice content in orange juice without any label declaration (21 CFR 146.140).

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