While many mandarins are jostling for position in the race for the “best-tasting” mandarin, the California Honey mandarin has been leading the pack for quite some time!
However, you might be out of luck when it comes to tracking them down…but why is that? Why would this flavorful, mind-blowing little fruit not be accessible to everyone? Let’s dive right in!
Characteristics of the California Honey Mandarin
Let’s start out by going over the appearance, taste, and tree traits of this delectable, decadent mandarin!
Appearance of the California Honey Mandarin
The California Honey mandarin carries the expected orange tone you like to see in…well, oranges; however, this particular mandarin falls on the darker end of orange. (Some might even call it a “honeyed” orange color!)
These fruits are smaller than your usual mandarin, which is why you won’t often find them in your favorite grocery store; they’re smaller than most mandarins and larger than your classic “clementine,” so they often get skipped over.
All this means, though, is that you should be twice as motivated to grow these beauties yourself!
While it takes a lot of patience and careful cultivation to grow fruit trees to maturity, trust me, these incomparable mandarins are worth every second of waiting you have to work through.
On top of the benefits of the actual fruits, the trees themselves make for a stunning addition to your backyard garden. What could be better than a yard that boasts a copse of fruit trees?
Taste of the California Honey Mandarin
The taste of the California Honey Mandarin is lauded far and wide; once again earning the “honey” in its name, it is known to be sweet and flooded with rich flavor, hints of its namesake and notes of spice buried inside.
This makes it a great choice for holiday stocking stuffers, if you follow that tradition, or for jarred treats to give away as gifts. We’ll talk more about that later, though.
California Honey Mandarin Tree Traits
There seems to be conflicting information on whether the California Honey mandarin is seedless or not. Most sources claim that they have seeds, but others refer to them as seedless.
To stay on the safe side, I’d assume they’re seeded. Better to expect seeds and not find them than to expect no seeds and end up biting into something you don’t want to eat!
These trees are considered semi-dwarf, reaching a maximum height of around 10 feet (though you can prune them shorter if you have to bring them inside!). They need plenty of sun, so make sure to avoid planting in areas of your yard that don’t get regular, strong sunlight.
Unfortunately, it will take some time for these trees to produce fruit, so don’t expect a harvest right away—it can take up to five years for you to start seeing California Honey mandarins on your tree!
Uses for the California Honey Mandarin
You probably have an idea of what you plan to use mandarins for—after all, they’re most popular for snacktime or lunchbox treats—but there are many, many different uses for these glimmering orange fruits that you might not have thought of yet!
Of course, snacking is the most well-known use for California Honey mandarins. Again, its arguable whether they’re seedless or not, so that isn’t necessarily an advantage they have over other mandarins; however, their petite size and absolutely unbeatable taste still sets them above other more common varieties of mandarin.
With their strong, intoxicating flavor of honeyed spice, you’re sure to fall in love with this fruit if you’re a tea lover; it’s sure to please just about any palate, though.
Mandarins are undoubtedly a popular snack for kids, and this one is no different! Though your kids may not necessarily appreciate the complexity buried within this flavor, they’re sure to adore it whether they can name all the flavor notes or not.
If you want to add a little extra something to your mandarins, you can try adding lavender and honey to enhance the flavor a bit.
Mandarins are an incredibly versatile fruit when it comes to cooking, baking, and canning! They can be utilized in both sweet and savory dishes as well as spreads, teas, and even cocktails.
If you’re going to go the cooking route, I recommend trying out a mandarin orange chicken recipe. The tang of mandarins go perfectly with orange chicken, because, well…they’re oranges.
But the advantages of using the California Honey mandarin for this particular recipe is the addition of spice notes and honey sweetness to the sweet-and-sour flavor of orange chicken.
If you’re considering heading down the baking route, try out some orange scones! If you want to enhance the natural spice notes in the California Honey mandarin, I suggest adding a dash of cinnamon to your scones.
Cinnamon complements the flavor of oranges anyway, but with the slightly seasoned flavor coming from this particular mandarin, it’s sure to work in even better tandem with the fruit!
Ready to try your hand at canning? Mandarins are a brilliant base for marmalade, and thanks to this mandarin’s unique flavor, canned marmalades might just make for the perfect twist on a traditional stocking stuffer this year.
Looking for a new favorite cocktail with a dash of citrus? Add some mandarin peel to your next old-fashioned, or use mandarin juice instead of lemon juice in your next holiday hot toddy.
When is the California Honey Mandarin in season?
There’s a reason you don’t want to have these trees outside during cold weather—the California Honey mandarin doesn’t ripen until November through April, which means its harvest time is smack-dab in the middle of the snow season.
We’ll talk about that more in the next section; just keep in mind that these fruits are late to show up to the harvesting party!
Where is the California Honey Mandarin grown?
These trees thrive best in warm climates; if you live in an area with a true winter, you’re not going to want to plant your California Honey mandarin tree in the ground.
Frost is not your friend here! However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have the best-tasting mandarin in your backyard.
If you live in an area with harsh winters, you can still grow a beautiful California Honey mandarin tree.
These trees are great container growers; planting in a container allows you to render this tree portable, which means you can pull it inside to shelter from the cold when winter blows into town and threatens your fruit!
Because it’s so difficult to track these particular mandarins down in any store, growing them yourself is your best bet to be able to indulge.
Be warned, though—you may just become the most popular person in your family or neighborhood if you have a grove of these citrus jewels cloistered away in your yard. Get ready to make lots of friends!
Final Thoughts on the California Honey Mandarin
There you have it: everything you need to know about the best-tasting mandarin out there! Excited for more orange content? Check out our orange trees page to start learning everything there is to know about your favorite citrus!
- About the Author
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Cassidy Eubanks is a proud Michigander, an avid reader, a lover of colorful gardens, and a writer for Minneopa Orchards.
After earning her bachelor’s in Creative Writing (partially through virtual learning, thanks to the pandemic), gardening gave her an excuse to get outside and get away from all the screens. With a particular love for decorating with colorful flowers, using herbs grown in her own garden, and finding creative ways to build big gardens in small spaces, Cassidy enjoys helping others learn about growing their own food, flowers, and trees through Minneopa Orchards!