Cuties are a trademarked variety of mandarins produced in California. This type of citrus fruit is not an orange but a small, sweet mandarin produced by both the Clementine and Murcott trees. Clementine mandarins are available during the winter months, and Murcott mandarins are produced from February until April. The medium-size mandarin tree flourishes in tropical and subtropical areas and produces very bright, seedless fruit. Mandarins are distinct from oranges and tangerines because of their thin, loose rind and size.
The Clementine is the smallest variety of mandarin oranges. Measuring about 2 inches in diameter, the Clementine is more oval than round in shape. The ease of which the rind can be removed as well as the size of this fruit have made Cutie oranges especially child-friendly. The midsize mandarin trees stand tall with long, willowy branches; Cutie trees typically produce a large amount of fruit one year followed by a light harvest the next year.
The Clementine, also know as the Algerian Tangerine is named after an Algerian monk, Father Clément Rodier because he is said to have found the hybrid fruit in his garden. It was introduced to the Florida and California citrus industry in the early 20th century.
Clementines are evergreen trees that can be grown in home gardens as well as in containers. A tree kept in a container must be pruned regularly to maintain a small size. During exceptionally cold weather, bring this potted tree indoors where it will receive enough light and space. These trees are mostly thornless and require full sunlight for best growth.
Clementines are nicknamed "Christmas Oranges." California Clementines are available in the winter months and are typically packages in large, wooden crates during the holiday season. It is common to see Cuties being given as gifts or enjoyed during holiday celebrations.