Rutaceae (Citrus family)

The Mandarin orange is native to tropical and subtropical regions of southeastern Asia, southern China, and the Philippines.

Description. Thorny evergreen tree with slender branches, 4-8 m (13-26 ft) tall. Lanceolate, alternate, dark green leaves with small rounded teeth along margins. White flowers are borne singly or in small clusters in the axils of leaves. Fruits oblate, orange, red-orange, or yellowish-green with a smooth or warty rind depending on variety. The peel is easily detached from the inner bright orange citrus segments, which are juicy and sweet. Fruits contain several seeds or none.

Origin and Distribution. The Mandarin orange is native to tropical and subtropical regions of southeastern Asia, southern China, and the Philippines. Mandarins were introduced into southern Europe at the beginning of the nineteenth century and to the Americas around 1840. The tree is widely grown throughout the tropics and parts of the subtropics as a dooryard tree or in commercial plantations.

Food uses. The fruits are commonly eaten out of hand or used in fruit salads and desserts. Fruit segments are often used to garnish ice cream, puddings, and cakes. Mandarin segments are sold as a canned product. They are also used in savory dishes like mixed salads,

chicken salads, ham rolls, and Asian sweet-and-sour dishes. Fruits are made into juice and sweet sauces for desserts. The yellow-orange essential oil derived from the peel, which has an intensely sweet, citric aroma, is used for flavoring sweets, ice cream, pastries, chewing gum, liquors, and bakery products.

Comments. Mandarin oranges are a good source of vitamins C and A and minerals like calcium and brome. Mandarin oil is used in aromatherapy, therapeutic massage, and treatment of skin problems like acne. The essential oil is an important ingredient in the manufacture of perfumes, soap, and cosmetics. Different parts of the plant, including fruit, seeds, roots, and flowers, are used in traditional herbal medicine in China, Malaysia, and India.

By far, the largest world producer of Mandarins is China, followed by Spain, Brazil, and Japan. Mandarin cultivars are usually divided into three major classes: Satsuma, Clementine, and Mandarin. Clementines are the most important commercially.

In China, Mandarins are associated with good fortune and often seen in Chinese New Year celebrations, when they are given to friends and family members as a sign of prosperity.

The orange quickly gained popularity in Renaissance Europe, where it was cultivated by wealthy people in orangeries.

Description. Spiny evergreen tree, 6-14 m (20-46 ft) tall. Alternate, aromatic leaves elliptic to ovate, margins slightly toothed, 8-16 cm (3-6 in) long by 4-8 cm wide, petioles with or without wings. White, sweetly fragrant flowers are produced singly or in small clusters. Fruits are spherical to oblate, orange, yellow, or yellowish-green, 7-12 cm (2.75-5 in) in diameter. The orange, red, or yellow pulp is composed of numerous juice sacks grouped in 10-14 individual segments. Fruits are seedless or contain few to numerous whitish irregularly formed seeds. Origin and Distribution. The species, which has been in cultivation for millennia, is unknown in the wild and probably native to a region ranging from northeastern India throughout Southeast Asia and north to southern China. It was carried to the Mediterranean region possibly by Italian traders after 1450 or by Portuguese navigators around 1500. Orange trees were planted along major trade routes to provide sailors with fresh fruits, essential for preventing scurvy caused by lack of vitamin C. The orange quickly gained popularity in Renaissance Europe, where it was cultivated by wealthy people in so-called orangeries. In the sixteenth century, the fruit was brought to the American continent by Spanish sailors. Today the plant is cultivated worldwide in tropical and subtropical regions.

Food uses. Oranges are usually eaten out of hand or made into juice. The fruit is used in the preparation of fruit salads, desserts, pie fillings, candies, and soft drinks. Orange slices are used to garnish salads and savory dishes.

Comments. The essential oil obtained from the peel is used as a flavoring agent in the production of candies, soft drinks, and other products in the food industry. Commercially, the orange is one of the most important fruits in the world. The main producers are Brazil and the United States, followed by India. Most fruits are exported in the form of frozen concentrate used in the production of orange juice. Many varieties exist. Two of the most important are ‘Washington Naval’ and ‘Valencia, along with Blood Orange varieties like ‘Sanguinello’.

Description. Small to medium-sized evergreen tree with rounded crown and dense foliage, 5-8 m (16- 26 ft) tall. Alternate, dark green, ovate to lanceolate leaves 6-10 cm (2.4-4 in) long with small rounded teeth along the margins and minute oil glands. White flowers with 4 petals are borne singly or in small clusters in leaf axils. Deep orange, almost spherical fruits often with a pronounced neck at the base and loose peel, measure 6-12 cm (2.4-4.8 in) in diameter. The juicy orange pulp has a subacid to sweet, aromatic taste. Fruits contain a few whitish seeds or none at all.

Origin and Distribution. The tangelo is a hybrid of the Mandarin orange (Citrus reticulata, p. 74) and either the grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi, p. 73) or the pomelo (Citrus maxima, p. 71). It was first cultivated in Florida and southern California around 1897; today the tangelo is cultivated in tropical and subtropical climates.

Food uses. Ripe fruits are most commonly eaten out of hand or used in fruit salads. The pulp is also used to make juice, marmalades, desserts, and sauces. The segments are used to garnish desserts, cakes, and ice cream.

Comments. Important commercial varieties of the tangelo include the faintly necked ‘Minneola’ with a fine, subacid taste, ‘Seminole’ medium-sized, oblate fruits with a sweet juicy pulp, and ‘Orlando5, with a sweet flavor and large fruits with a distinct nipple.

Description. Small evergreen tree with long, spreading branches, 4-6 m (13-20 ft) tall. Alternate, pinnate, dark green leaves 12-32 cm (5-13 in) long with 7-15 elliptic leaflets with wavy, toothed leaf margins. Fragrant white to greenish-yellow flowers are produced in long panicles at the tips of branches. Round to conical-oblong, yellowish fruits grow in pendent clusters. The thin and brittle rind contains numerous oil glands. Flesh yellow or transparent, juicy, grapelike, with a sweet to subacid, aromatic flavor. Fruits contain 1-5 seeds.

Origin and Distribution. The wampee grows naturally in southern China and northern Vietnam and Laos. It is commonly grown in Southeast Asia but rare elsewhere. The tree can withstand only very light frosts and grows best in subtropical and tropical climates.

Food uses. Fully ripe fruits, which are considered a delicacy in China and Vietnam, are eaten fresh or added to fruit salads and desserts. They are made into refreshing drinks and jellies and jams. In southern China, fruit pieces are used as an ingredient in savory dishes with meat and chicken. In Southeast Asia, a fermented, carbonated drink is made from wampee fruits.

Comments. Ripe fruits are a good source of vitamin C, containing 25 to 35 mg (0.0009-0.001 oz) ascorbic acid per 100 g (0.22 lbs) pulp. Mature trees can produce up to 50 kg (110 lbs) of fruits per year. The attractive tree is often cultivated as an ornamental and as a shade tree. Several varieties of the wampee are cultivated. The brown-skinned variety, ‘Guy Sam5, is often grown for its sweet, tangy aroma. Another commonly cultivated, sweet variety is ‘Chi Hsin.

Description. Fast-growing evergreen shrub or small tree, 2-6 m (7-20 ft) tall, with succulent, semiwoody stems containing milky latex. Alternate, simple, deeply lobed palmate leaves 15-20 cm (6-8 in) wide with long, thin petioles. Small white male and female flowers borne on long pedicels. Round seedpods measure 2.5 cm (1 in) in diameter.

Origin and Distribution. Native to the Yucatan Peninsula of southeastern Mexico. Commonly cultivated as a dooryard plant in tropical regions of Central and South America. Chaya plants are cold-sensitive and require a moist to humid tropical climate.

Food uses. The foliage and tender shoots are boiled in water and used as a green vegetable similar to spinach. In Mexico, the leaves are eaten with tortillas and in soups and stews. A traditional Mexican dish is made of corn tortillas filled with chaya leaves, hard-boiled eggs, beans, cheese, and chili sauce. Boiled and cooled leaves are employed in mixed salads.

Comments. Chaya leaves and shoots are toxic when eaten raw because they contain hydrocyanic glucoside. Cooking and leaching the leaves and shoots makes chaya safe to eat. In traditional Mexican herbal medicine, a tea is prepared from chaya leaves and used to treat diabetes, kidney stones, and obesity.

Chaya leaves are tasty and very nutritious, containing two to three times more nutrients than comparable leafy vegetables such as spinach. They are high in protein, calcium, iron, phosphorous, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamins A and C. The leaves could be a source of nutrition to populations that cannot afford expensive foods rich in these nutrients.

A United Sates Department of Agriculture study found that no other vegetable produced greater yields than chaya. The leaves can be harvested year-round, and up to 50% of the leaves of a single tree can be harvested at one time.

Description. Small to medium-sized, often multistemmed evergreen tree, 6-18 m (20-60 ft) tall. Alternate, simple leaves broad-oblong, glabrous, leathery, 20-35 cm (8-14 in) long. Small, fragrant, greenish flowers are produced in long terminal and axillary spikes. Fruits are achenes with a whitish to translucent, sweet juicy pulp with a grapelike consistency. The outer, edible parts of the fruit consist of the former perianth, which becomes fleshy.

Origin and Distribution. Native to Mexico and Central America, where the tree occurs mainly along the Pacific coast, and in northern South America; it is rarely cultivated outside its natural range. The papa-turro is strictly tropical, preferring a climate with a distinct dry season and growing on sandy soils, often along riverbanks. The tree is often cultivated for its beautiful foliage and as a shade tree.

Food uses. The sweet, somewhat insipid fleshy pulp surrounding the seed is usually eaten out of hand. During the dry season in Central America, one can often see children collecting the fruits from wild trees.

Comments. The wood is used for firewood and as fence poles. The fruits are usually not marketed but collected and eaten directly from naturally growing trees. The genus Coccoloba comprises more than 120 species native to Central and South America, Mexico, Florida, and the Antilles.

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