INVESTIGATING TANKAN, THE NOT SO WELL KNOWN TANGERINE

Perhaps you?re not the sort who is well-versed in the different types of tangerines and oranges (what?s the difference between them?!), and maybe you?ve never heard of Tankan – but that?s okay. In this article on investigating Tankan, we hope to get to the bottom of this interesting-sounding fruit that has no bearing whatsoever on the Japanese Tankan Survey, which is used to formulate monetary policies.

WHAT?S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ORANGES AND TANGERINES

It is very easy to mix up one with the other. Both have their varying hues of orange colour. Both have differing sizes, even under the same fruit group. But did you know that there is a consistent pattern of tangerines being smaller than oranges in size? Though there are a few tangerines that break the rules by having larger than usual sizes, they are generally smaller sized than oranges.

When it comes to taste, oranges are sweet. However, tangerines are known for being particularly sweet; sweeter than oranges. They are also known for being less sour compared to their orange counterparts. Next, we find out that their differences can also be ?skin deep?! The peels of tangerines are very easily removed, just like your Mandarins (this word can be used interchangeably with Tangerines). During Chinese New Year, you don?t peel oranges – you peel the mandarins/tangerines, which is a relatively easy task as they can sometimes come off all with just peeling once if you?re careful enough. This is not possible with oranges, however, and you?re much better off cutting them up and juicing them instead!

SO, WHAT IS TANKAN AND WHICH GROUP IS IT?

Yes, you must definitely know this by now: Tankans are tangerines. Tangerines are well known for mostly being grown in China and Japan, where the climate allows for the tangerines to grow and ripen well. They?re also found in India, Australia, and almost all tropical and cool parts of the world. Tankans are native fruits to Japan, and are grown best in the southern, cooler parts of the country-island. Tankans flourish more prominently in the lush tankan farms and fields of Yakushima (Kagoshima prefecture) and Okinawa. They need lots of sunlight to grow well too, and their ripening process largely depends on the exposure of sun on them.

HOW IS TANKAN DIFFERENT FROM NORMAL ORANGES AND TANGERINES?

As we?ve mentioned earlier, Tankans are immensely popular fruits, especially in Japan, and affectionately known as the darlings of tangerines, alongside their ?ponkan? cousins. The prime harvest season for these delicious tankan tangerines is from February to early March. After the harvesting season, these tankans are exported all over the world. They make up a substantial percentage of Yakushima?s exports. Tankans are well known for not only their exquisite, natural sweetness, but also the amount of vitamin C that they contain (apparently twice the amount of vitamin C in Mandarin oranges).

TANKAN PICKING FARMS

In Japan, there are many Tankan picking farms. As mentioned earlier, Yakushima is the main producer of Japan?s tankan tangerines – so it?s no wonder that there are many tankan picking farms in the Kagoshima prefecture! Izumi, located in Okinawa, is also well known for its tankan farms. The orchard/farm estates are surrounded by thick greenery and foliage; and hidden inside are the secret gardens of tankan!

During the wintry harvesting season, people flock to these tankan picking farms to enjoy leisurely walks around the estate as they take in the sweet scent (and taste) of tankan! For a reasonable entry fee of about 250 yen, guests are provided with a basket or two to fill. They can freely roam the orchards, and are even allowed to pluck tankans directly from trees to taste them!

If they wish to take home the basket of tankans they?ve chosen, the prices usually range from 250-300 yen per kilogram, significantly cheaper than retail prices (which go for 150-200 yen per small bag of oranges). This is surely one unexpected wintry activity that the people of Japan love indulging in!

WHAT DO PEOPLE SAY ABOUT TANKANS?

There?s everything to love about tankans, and people generally have pleasant things to say about this wonderful fruit. Juicy, sweet, and packed with vitamin Cs that would make our mothers drop Mandarin oranges in shock – when they hear Mandarins contain only half of the vitamin C tankans have. While the people of Nagata, Okinawa and Kagoshima prefecture are extremely lucky to be right where the sweetest, most juicy tankans are being produced, our gripe as Singaporeans is that these tankans have to be imported to our country, and can never be grown or plucked from our trees!

CAN I FIND TANKAN IN SINGAPORE?

Tankans are imported directly from Yakushima, Kagoshima, but these are limited. Several Japanese marts and supermarkets sell these tankans, but they?re not very easy to find because of their cyclical nature in growing and harvesting. Sometimes Isetan sells tankans, and sometimes you don?t see them at all for a time. These seasonal tankan fruits are almost hard to find and temperamental in that respect, but they?re definitely worth trying out at least once if you ever have the privilege of chancing upon them. If you?re craving for a tankan-based drink to better understand its taste, or if you?re curious about how tankan is different from ordinary oranges, perhaps you could give Kakuida?s iced Tankan kurozu drink a try.