Murcott Tangerines

Ugly.

Murcott tangerines are ugly. They're bumpy, the skin is too loose for the size of the fruit within, they often have rough patches where the branches grew against the maturing fruit, and the overall effect is of something so far past its prime that it shouldn't be sold.

Don't be fooled. The Murcott tangerine is quite possibly the most delicious piece of citrus available all year in California. Beneath that pebbly, gnarled skin lies a succulent citrus fruit with a flavor like honey (they're sometimes marketed as "honey tangerines"), a few seeds and more sweet juice than any fruit its size has a right to produce.

Murcott Tangerines
Dave Lieberman

As with any citrus, select specimens that are heavy for their size. The more pronounced the "conehead" effect at the top, the juicier and better they'll be (this is caused by heavy fruit warping the skin as it hangs on the tree). Scrapes in the zest are inevitable, but avoid cuts that go too deep, as the fruit inside may be dry after long exposure to air.

Try sectioned Murcotts in a salad with a spicy green like Sweredoski Farms' "butt kickin' arugula" and shaved Parmigiano, or set atop a vanilla cream-filled tart and brushed with jam. Speaking of jam, they make outstanding marmalade, though not the tart Seville spread of British fame. Juice them for the visitors from back East and spoil carton OJ for them forever.

Or you could, you know, just eat them over the sink with a napkin over your head, like ortolans for vegans. Nobody needs to see the shameful rapture they'll induce.


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