Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the January 26, 2007 Newsletter issued from Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, QUERÉTARO, MÉXICO


Tangerine season is winding down here. It reached a peak around Christmas, when people's yard trees looked artificial because they bore so many bright-orange fruits. Marina here at the Reserve invited me one late afternoon to go to her mother's house to help her pick tangerines. We got onto a building's flat roof and picked about three bushels, hardly making a dent in the crop. By now surely the vast majority of the tree's perfect fruits have simply fallen and rotted, for many people have such trees, and it's just impossible to eat all the fruit. For a while a man parked a pickup truck full of them near my residence but he didn't sell many. Everyone had tangerines to spare. What a pleasant memory, though, of being atop that house, Marina hidden inside the trees' fruit-heavy limbs handing out tangerines in threes and fours to me, the limbs' spines scratching us, but somehow the scratches seemed just payment for the sweetness we were gathering, overindulging in.

Sunkist's online Tangerine Page says that there are three major tangerine types: tangerines; mandarins, and; tangelos. Then each of these types has different varieties, such as the Fairchild and Dancy.

I'm not sure which variety ours is. They're deep, almost reddish orange and with just one thumbnail scratch across a fruit's top the peel comes loose. I've never seen tangerines with such loose-fitting skin, and a whole fruit contains only two or three soft seeds. Sometimes I eat the peel itself. It's like wanting to experience even the dark side of a beautiful woman: Maybe it's a need to complement the sweetness with bitterness, if only to attain esthetic balance.

It's sad to see fruits rotting on trees, and white fungus-pustules appearing on otherwise perfect fruits heaped in marketplace bins.

But, every season passes and something else comes along. Oranges are still at their peak. The next thing to look forward to, I'm told, in mango season in April.

If you know the tangerine varieties maybe you can tell me what kind we have. A picture of one in my hand is at the page top.