Wednesday, January 4, 2012
The Mandarin orange is a significant fruit for the New Year. It symbolizes a bountiful harvest, prosperity and hope for success. New Year greetings accompanied with a present consisting of a pair of oranges is a traditional practice among the Chinese. This symbolizes gold and all the good wishes for the New Year. Mandarin oranges come in different sizes and are often used to adorn homes during New Year’s Eve. It is believed that the bigger the orange is, the bigger the opportunities it represents. Scientifically known as Citrus reticulata, it is in reality a variety within the Citrus or orange family.
The Mandarin fruit can be easily peeled as its orange rind is thin and the fruit can be split into even segments without squirting its juice. This makes the Mandarin convenient to eat, as utensils are not required to peel or cut the fruit. The segments are sweet and juicy and most often seedless.
Aside from being eaten ripe, the Mandarin segments also be used in fruit salads, made into sweets and can also be canned. The fruit also contains a lot of medicinal properties. In traditional Chinese medicine, the dried peel of the fruit is used to treat abdominal distension, to enhance digestion and to reduce phlegm. It’s also a good source of vitamin C, minerals and fiber.
The Mandarin tree is drought-tolerant and can grow both in tropical and subtropical areas. However, the tree is tender and can easily be damaged by extremely cold temperatures. It is a small tree and one can grow Mandarin oranges in pots just like other types of citrus. It is most often grown from seeds or grafted. The plants are often grown outdoors exposed to full sunlight during the growing season. They are brought indoors during Christmas and New Year celebrations.
The Mandarin orange is established in 20-inch pots. Seeds are germinated in small pots until the plant grows to six inches in height. It should then be transferred to a bigger pot. A rich potting soil, usually an equal mixture of garden soil, compost and sand is recommended. The plant requires daily watering and it must be fertilized once a month.
A layer of rocks, gravel or broken pots in the bottom of the pot can help water drain away from the roots. Branches must be pruned regularly. The plant is usually plagued with insect pests like mites, aphids, caterpillars or white flies so it’s best to administer an insecticide solution.
Plants grown from seedlings will usually bear fruit after two to three years. Mandarin oranges thrive in cool temperatures of about 10 to 25 degrees Celsius, similar to the climates of Baguio or other high altitude places. It is also the cool temperature that makes the fruit turn orange as it ripens. It should also be noted that Citrus fruits are usually self-fertile, needing only a bee to move pollen within the same flower.
By NORBY BAUTISTA