Mandarins are usually eaten plain or in fruit salads. Specifically reddish-orange mandarin cultivars can be marketed as tangerines, but this is not a botanical classification. Thin, pebbly skin Mandarins are smaller and less spherical than common oranges (which are a mandarin hybrid). The taste is considered less sour, as well as sweeter and stronger. A ripe mandarin is firm to slightly soft, heavy for its size, and pebbly-skinned. The peel is very thin, with very little bitter white mesocarp, so they are usually easier to peel and to split into segments. Hybrids generally have these traits to a lesser degree.

The tree is more drought-tolerant than the fruit. The mandarin is tender and is damaged easily by cold. It can be grown in tropical and subtropical areas. According to molecular studies, the mandarin, the citron, the pomelo, and the papeda were the ancestors of most other commercial citrus varieties, through breeding or natural hybridization; mandarins are therefore all the more important as the only sweet fruit among the parental species.

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