Clementines are small oranges that are seedless, easy to peel, and—when well-grown and ripe—perfectly sweet to eat, too.
Like a good stinky Muenster cheese or properly made crêpe, clementines used to be something one had to go to Europe to find. Their arrival at markets there is heralded with such high spirits and good cheer that it warms the gray, bone-chilling air. The treasure of small gleaming oranges is a delicious antidote to winter.
The ritual of buying and eating these bright, sunny fruits and letting their sweet, floral aroma fill the house is one worth repeating every winter, whether you choose clementines proper or their like-minded tiny orange brethren such as satsumas or Ojai pixies. Consider keeping a big bowl of clementines in the center of the dining room table or on the kitchen counter for easy snacking from morning to night—all of the sudden the onset of gloomy, rainy, dark winter doesn't seem so terribly bad.
How to Eat Clementines
That's the thing about clementines: not only are they are easy to eat, they are fundamentally cheery little fruits. The peel almost slips off—not as easily as does a satsuma's peel, but easier than any other citrus that comes to mind, very little if any of the pith clings to the fruit, and the membrane surrounding each section is delicate enough to be almost unnoticeable. Seeds are few and far between—many are even fully seedless.
Pack them in lunches, stick one in your purse or jacket pocket—they are as fabulously portable as they are sweetly refreshing.
How & When to Find Clementines
In the U.S. clementines are often marketed as "Cuties" or "Sweeties" and sold in small crates or boxes, especially around Christmas time. Their association with the holiday season is a reasonable one since they are in season from late November into January.
Spain still grows scads of clementines, but there are substantial groves in California and Texas, as well.
How to Store Clementines
Store clementines in a cool place, but don't refrigerate them. As with all citrus, don't store clementines in plastic—it will make them sweat and spoil much quicker than they would just left out to breathe. Clementines last for several weeks after they're picked, if they are kept relatively cool and out of too much direct sunlight.
If you tire of just peeling and eating clementines out of hand, add clementine sections to tossed salads. Make this Clementine Semifreddo or bake up a Clementine Cake. You can use them in this Orange Beet Salad. Or keep things fruity: slice them up, spritz them with lemon juice, and sprinkle with chopped mint for an easy fruit salad; add a few pomegranate seeds for a pop of color.