Food History is a resource for anybody interested in food history. Articles exploring various issues of food history will be featured regularly. Learning food history means that cultural study which involves multidisciplinary approaches from economics, sociology and demography, and even literature.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

History of mandarin oranges (Citrus reticulata)

China is one of the native homes of the mandarin (Citrus reticulate) and has a cultivation history of about 4000 years. Mandarin takes its name from a group of high ranking public officials in imperial China whose hats had a button shaped similarly to the fruit and whose robes were the color of the fruit.

In T’ang times(618-907 AD), the fruiting of mandarin trees in the imperial gardens apparently indoors, led to ‘formal congratulations to the monarch oh his divine charisma’.

Although mandarins were cultivated in China as early as the time before the Xia dynasty (21st-16th century BC), the concept of fruit variety was not developed until about the 3rd century during the Chin dynasty (265-420 AD).

In the early fourth century AD, Chi Han had already distinguished red and yellow forms of mandarins (chu and kan) in the south, one of them famous variety known in present day Canton and the West as Ponkan or ‘Chinese honey orange’.

The mandarin orange arrived in India at the beginning of the Christian Era. It was probably brought by the Shan people of China from Yunnan to Assam.

Mandarin seeds were brought to Japan from China, probably to Kagoshima on Kyushu Island. The forts reference to the mandarin in Japanese literature was made by Kokwan (1278-1346 AD).

An awareness of the Chinese fondness for oranges may have brought on the interesting tradition, reported for 17th century Java, that when a Chinese ship arrived in the port of Bantam, representative of the ruler brought a gift of oranges along with two umbrellas.

The first European country to grow the small, loose-skinned mandarin orange was England. The first mandarin tree was brought there from China in 1805. It has assumed increasing importance in the European market only during the second half of the twentieth century.

The mandarin orange was first introduced into the United States by the Italian Consul to New Orleans, La, from Italy, between 1840 and 1850, and was later taken from there to Florida and California.
History of mandarin oranges (Citrus reticulata)