I’ve been disappointed by the flavour of small oranges over the last few years. As a kid I used to love the exhilarating combination of sweet and tart juice, an exploding refreshment in every segment. So why oh why is it so hard to find a decent dinky citrus fruit? The market’s overwhelmed by the bland sweetness of satsumas, mandarins and un-named ‘small oranges’ in the supermarkets. But for me the king of the bunch has to be the tangerine.
Small oranges were so much more fun than ‘proper’ oranges: you could peel then more easily, didn’t have to spend ages trying to remove the acrid pith, the segments were much more suited to snaffling in a single mouthful, and you were more likely to dodge a pip in the seed version of Russian Roulette. They were also lunchbox-friendly, tended to end up in the toe of your Christmas stocking as a token healthy concession on a day of chocolate-fuelled gluttony, and came in great string bags.
I think Radio 4’s ‘The Food Programme’ covered the changing trends in orange consumption a few years ago, demonstrating how the public’s taste had grown for sweeter varieties to the detriment of tangy-ier citrus fruit. I was chuffed to find tangerines in Sainsbury’s over Christmas and into the new year as I’d not seen them in shops for years. My stash for this year has now been depleted, with even the slighlty wrinkley and aged ones used for cooking juice, but at least I know I can still get my favourite fun-sized fruit. The future’s bright… the future’s orange!