Most Modern Varieties of Oranges are Disappointing in Flavor

I have a hard time finding oranges, particularly tangerines, that have any flavor. Tangerines, also known as Mandarin oranges, used to have delicious flavor and aroma, but modern farmers developed seedless varieties that are easy to peel and eat and have a long shelf life. They taste so bland; I regret purchasing them every time. “Little Cuties,” small seedless Mandarin oranges, are heavily marketed and found in all grocery stores, but they are usually a tasteless disappointment. Other modern Mandarin orange varieties are just as bland. My favorite variety of orange is the Temple orange. They are full of seeds but taste good. I haven’t been able to find them in several years. Not being able to get a good orange is just another annoyance I suppose I’ll have to learn to accept. Modern grapefruit varieties are an improvement, however. I remember when grapefruits needed added sugar, but it is not necessary to add sugar to the grapefruit varieties available today.

All citrus species originated in the Himalayan foothills during the late Miocene about 8 million years ago. They were first cultivated in China at least 1700 years ago and soon spread to India. Scientists aren’t sure how many species of citrus exist because men have been interbreeding them for so long. The Moors brought sour oranges (Citrus aurantium) to Spain and North Africa during the 8th century. Sweet oranges weren’t introduced to Europe until the 15th century. The Spanish brought oranges to Florida, and William Bartram saw large groves of wild oranges growing all over the territory by 1776. The Spanish also brought oranges to California. Today, the orange is the most widely grown fruit in the world. Leading producers of oranges include in order Brazil, China, India, the U.S., Mexico, and Spain.

All species of Citrus originated in the foothills of the Himalayas.
Genomic chart showing origin of Citrus fruits. From the below reference.
Genomic chart showing breeding of Citrus fruits by human horticulturalists. Scientists don’t know how many species of Citrus there are because humans have interbred them so frequently. Also from the below reference.

Scientists recently mapped the genome of citrus fruits. The modern sweet orange is a hybrid between pummelo (C. maximus) hybrids and mandarin oranges (C. reticulata). Pummelos can be found in grocery stores and are similar to grapefruits but have thicker skins and more pith. Grapefruits are a back crossing of mandarin hybrids with pummelos. Mandarin oranges have been back crossed with pummelos several times. Lemons are a hybrid between sour oranges and citrons.


Guohong, Albert; et. al.

“Genomics of the Origin and Evolution of Citrus”

Nature 554 Feb 2018

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