You might have heard of the Tangelo orange and recognized the name as a hybrid fruit. However, you have probably seen these in your local supermarket and simply thought they were oranges. But these tangy, overlarge fruits have a smell and taste that is entirely unique.
Tangelo oranges are a cross between grapefruit and tangerines or pomelos. They have a brilliant, deep orange peel and a unique bumpy rind with a large navel. They are also known for being extremely juicy and delicious. If you love growing citrus trees, the Tangelo Orange tree is a unique experience that is not to be missed.
History of the Tangelo Orange Tree
The Tangelo orange tree may have begun in its earliest form in 1898 in Riverside, California. But as time went on, growers realized that the California climate wasn’t well suited to growing this unusual hybrid, which needs a humid environment.
The Minneola tangelo, which was bred by the US Department of Agriculture, was introduced in 1931. A hybrid of two grapefruit and mandarin orange varieties, the Minneola was best suited to growing in a swamplike environment. Since its beginning, it has been grown in Florida for commercial purposes.
Tree / Fruit Characteristics
The Tangelo orange tree is a large evergreen that blooms all year long, given the right conditions. It has shiny, waxy-looking leaves that are a deep green shade.
Tangelo oranges range in size. Some are about the size of an orange, but it is not uncommon to find ones the size of grapefruits. They usually have dark but brilliant orange-red skin. This, along with their fragrant white blossoms, makes them especially striking trees for a garden.
The fruit has a stumpy protrusion on one side, the “navel” where it sprouted from the tree. This protrusion offers a convenient handhold for peeling, and you can remove Tangelo peels much more easily than most fruits.
Like most citrus trees, the Tangelo orange tree prefers a warm, humid growing environment. They have found a foothold in Florida along with dozens of other citrus varieties. They are recommended for growing zones nine and ten.
However, if you live in a cooler climate, you can still learn how to grow the Tangelo orange tree. The key is to plant your Tangelo orange tree in a pot so that you can move it into your house or a greenhouse when the weather starts to get cold
As long as it remains in a warm spot with plenty of sunshine, your Tangelo orange tree will thrive all winter long. It will even produce fruit during those long snowy months, starting as early as midwinter.
Size and Spacing
The Tangelo orange tree is a fairly large citrus tree. At full maturity, it reaches a height of between eight and 12 feet, with a spread of between 10 and 12 feet. Because of this, you should space them a minimum of 12 feet apart.
The general rule of thumb for spacing citrus trees, however, is to allow more distance for varieties with larger fruit. Feel free to space Tangelo orange trees up to 25 feet apart to let their roots and branches spread as much as possible. This lets them reap the most nutrients from the sun and soil.
However, make sure to plant your tree no more than 60 feet away from its cross-pollinator.
Remember that spacing also applies to other structures like sheds, houses, and fences. Make sure your Tangelo orange tree has plenty of space. This ensures that its roots and branches can spread.
The Minneola tangelo orange tree is self-sterile, which means that it needs a good cross-pollinator in order to bear fruit. You can choose almost any type of mandarin orange as a pollinator. The exceptions are varieties that are closely related to the Minneola, including the Orlando and Seminole oranges, and Satsumas.
An unfortunate disadvantage of cross-pollinating the Minneola tangelo orange is that it sometimes results in high seed concentration. However, this is not a guarantee for every crop, nor does it affect the delicious taste of the fruit.
Tangelo Orange Tree Care
Because the Tangelo orange tree is so particularly suited to a specific environment, it might be a bit finicky in your garden. However, don’t let that stop you from planting it. With the right time and effort, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful ornamental tree that produces delicious and unique fruit.
Tangelo orange trees grow well in areas like Florida, so it should come as no surprise that they need a lot of sunlight. Plant them in a place where they will get full sun, which is defined as at least six to eight hours a day. Getting more than that is absolutely fine — in fact, it may even be beneficial.
It is absolutely vital never to overwater any citrus tree, and the Tangelo orange is no different. Plant it in well-draining soil to ensure that the roots do not get overly soggy. Similarly, keep the grass well-trimmed around the root system and avoid putting mulch down, as these can draw too much water.
Keep your tree hydrated by providing one inch of water a week during the growing season. Excess water causes disease and draws pests, both of which can seriously damage your Tangelo orange tree’s health.
Pruning citrus trees is vital for their long-term health. Pruning cuts away dead growth to promote healthy growth, better circulation, and more access to sunlight and nutrients.
Tackle the job in the early spring or late winter. Focus on broken, dead, or crossing branches and remove any pests or signs of disease, such as suckers. Always make sure to use pruning shears that are sharp and clean to avoid passing any disease to your tree.
Diseases And Care
Unfortunately, the Tangelo orange tree is prone to attracting several types of pests, although this can be lessened by buying a disease-resistant rootstock. Some of these include mites, aphids, whiteflies, and fire ants.
Check your tree regularly to look for signs of infestation or disease. If you notice anything, tackle it with an approved treatment for citrus trees.
Common Uses For The Fruit
Tangelo oranges can be enjoyed almost any way you can imagine. However, these extremely juicy fruits are ideal for beverages. Although you are always free to eat them raw, Tangelo oranges may have a lot of seeds, so practice care to avoid hurting your teeth.
What Do Tangelo Oranges Taste Like?
When you eat a Tangelo orange, you may catch a taste of one of its parents, the grapefruit. The oranges are a delicious balance of sweet and tangy. If you wait until the late part of the season to harvest, the fruit will reach this balance more evenly, so you have oranges that are neither too tart nor too sweet.
We usually associate cooking oranges with baking — and for good reason! There are hundreds of ways to use oranges in baked goods. The zest and juice are used in recipes such as:
- Orange cake
- Orange meringue pie
- Orange rolls or scones
- Bread pudding
- Panna cotta
- Coffee cake
- Orange tarts
- Chocolate orange tart
Of course, most of these recipes traditionally use a classic sweet orange variety rather than a hybrid like the Tangelo. However, there is nothing keeping you from trying them out with a new variety. You may find that the spin creates a new favorite.
Oranges are also frequently used in making candy at home. Candied peel is a delicious homemade confection that can be given as a Christmas gift. The basic recipe involves boiling orange peels in sugar water to remove the bitterness and make them soft and chewable.
Just because the Tangelo is a sweet fruit doesn’t mean that you have to use it exclusively in cakes or pastries, though. Oranges of every variety are often paired with meat dishes in the form of sauce or glaze. Here are some of the best ways you can use Tangelo oranges in savory cooking:
- Orange chicken
- Pork with orange sauce
- Spicy wings with orange glaze
- Orange butter sauce
- Orange syrup
Tangelo oranges are also deliciously eaten raw. They are easy to peel by hand without cutting or slicing, making them perfect for a healthy snack.
Although they are related to grapefruit, Tangelo oranges are not nearly as bitter. If you find the fruit from your tree too tangy, try waiting a little longer to harvest the next time. This lets the fruit ripen and develop a higher sugar content to contrast with the acidity.
Juicing is another great way to enjoy Tangelo oranges raw. There is nothing as refreshing as a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. But there are countless other ways to use the juice, too. Here are some of the best ideas for using raw Tangelo orange juice (and zest!):
- Homemade yogurt or smoothies
- Salad dressing and vinaigrette
- Meat marinade
- Frosting and glaze
- Cocktails including the screwdriver, mimosa, tequila sunrise, orange martini, and orange blossom
Canning / Freezing / Drying
Preserving Tangelo oranges is a delicious way to enjoy them in many different forms. Try your hand at making orange marmalade, jam, syrup, or liqueur. These types of preserves have dozens of uses and will store on your pantry shelf for many years.
Oranges like the Tangelo are also popular choices for freezing. Usually, this is done by juicing the orange and freezing it as popsicles. You can also make it into ice cream or sorbet. One popular recipe is a homemade creamsicle, a rendition of a classic childhood treat.
Most oranges do not work well as dried fruit — at least not for eating. They can be dried and added to a homemade potpourri for their sweet floral scent.
Health Benefits of Tangelo Oranges
Tangelo oranges, like most other citrus, are packed with vitamins. They are low in calories and high in fiber, which is vital for aiding in digestion and gut health. They also have high levels of vitamin C — more than your complete daily value — and vitamin A.
These vitamins are essential for supporting your immune system and promoting your body’s ability to heal damaged tissue. Vitamin A also improves eye and skin health, including boosting collagen production.
Where To Buy Tangelo Orange Trees
You can buy variants of the Tangelo Orange tree online at websites like Nature Hills. These usually come in the form of rootstocks, which are easier to plant and quicker to sprout than seeds.
Where To Buy Tangelo Oranges
If you don’t live in Florida, you might not be able to find locally-grown Tangelo oranges. However, it is completely possible that you have passed them in the grocery store, thinking that they were regular oranges.
Next time you go shopping, look carefully in the produce section. You might notice some Tangelo oranges hiding among the classic sweet orange varieties.
What Should I Do To Protect My Tangelo Orange Tree During The Winter?
If you live in a cold climate, you will need to protect your Tangelo orange tree during the winter. Once the temperature starts falling below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, cover the tree with blankets to keep it warm.
If the tree is in a pot, move it inside to a warm spot where it will get lots of sunlight. Protect it from cold drafts. In a good environment, you may start seeing fruit as early as January.
Wrapping Up The Tangelo Orange Tree
The Tangelo orange tree has many of the same needs as other citrus varieties. But the resulting fruit is completely one of a kind. Once you try this sweet and tangy hybrid, you’ll know that all the work you put in was worth it.
Excited for more orange content? Check out our orange trees page to start learning everything there is to know about your favorite citrus!