Korea is well known for their amazing cuisine, including their exceptionally tasty fruits. While certain treasures like Korean strawberries have already gained international popularity, there are still more well-kept Korean secrets in their world of amazing fruits that have yet to be discovered.
One of the most locally famous Korean staple fruits is the Jeju Tangerine - doesn’t sound too interesting, but we guarantee it’s worlds apart from other types of tangerines and oranges in the market! Here are some of the types of Korean tangerines you absolutely have to try, for their unique features and amazing taste.
Oranges vs Tangerines
Before we get into our recommendation for the best Korean tangerines to try, we have to clear up a common misconception - are oranges and tangerines the same thing?
The answer to that is no! Although we commonly refer to most orange-coloured citrus fruits as ‘oranges’, there is actually a difference between the two.
Tangerines, which are often labelled as mandarins or mandarin oranges, are actually also not quite the same as mandarins. Tangerines are a subgroup of mandarins, and are the label given to reddish-orange and brightly-coloured mandarins. On the other hand, oranges are hybrids of pomelos and mandarins.
The main physical distinction between tangerines and oranges is size. Oranges are typically larger than tangerines, and tend to be firm and heavy when ripe. Additionally, oranges usually have a lighter yellow-orange colour, while tangerines have a deeper reddish-orange colour.
While the taste of the fruits vary across varieties, tangerines are typically sweeter and less sour than oranges. Tangerines are also easier to peel than oranges, and are widely enjoyed as a snack in most Singaporean households especially during the Chinese New Year period.
So, what makes Korean tangerines so special? Tangerines are a widely-loved fruit in Korea, with Koreans consuming two times more tangerines than apples. In fact, Korean winters are said to not be complete without an abundance of tangerines, as most varieties have their harvest seasons from October to January, and are rich in vitamin C to boost immunity in the cold winter months.
In particular, Jeju tangerines have a high sugar content and thin rinds, or peels, making them superbly delicious. In fact, a trip down to Jeju Island would reveal the abundance of tangerines, from lone backyard trees to sprawling tangerine plantations.
Despite most tangerines looking similar to the untrained eye, there are a huge number of different varieties of tangerines in Korea that you definitely have to try. Here are our top four picks, along with some interesting background information about them!
Noji Tangerine (노지감귤)
The Noji tangerine is the most common variety enjoyed in Korea, as they contain a good balance between sweet and tangy. These are abundant with citric acid, which is believed to relieve fatigue by breaking down lactic acid, and preventing it from building up in the body.
They make up the broad variety of Korean tangerines known as Gamgyul. As ‘Noji’ refers to a natural and wide space where crops are grown, Noji tangerines make up the variety of Gamgyul that are grown in outdoor fields. On the other hand, the variety of Gamgyul which are grown in greenhouses are known in Korea as House tangerines.
As Noji tangerines grow naturally on tangerine trees in Jeju Island, they tend to contain physical imperfections caused by the strong winds and rain of the area. But not to worry - the taste won’t be affected!
Harvesting season: October to January
The Hallabong tangerines are probably the most famous variety of Korean tangerines in the world. Native to Jeju, the Hallabong tangerines are a cross-breed between the Kiyomi orange and Ponkan citrus fruits. This variety of tangerine contains crunchy pulp and is rich with juice, and is easily recognisable from its protruding stem.
In fact, the tangerine is named Hallabong due to its resemblance to the Hallasan Mountain in Jeju Island!
Harvesting season: December to March / end January to early February
The Cheonhyehyang tangerines are a perfect pick for those with a sweet tooth. Compared to most other citrus fruits, the Cheonhyehyang tangerines contain less acidity and a rich sweetness. They also have a thin peel that wraps around wonderfully soft flesh, and tend to be around two to three times the size of a normal tangerine.
Cheonhyehyang tangerines are well-loved in Korea for its delectable fragrance. In fact, its name stems from ‘향기가 천리를간다’, or ‘the scent that reaches heaven’.
Harvesting season: January to April
The Hwanggeumhyang tangerines are a cross-breed between the Hallabong and the Cheonhyehyang tangerines. They are a new breed of tangerines that started in 2019, and are native to Jeju Island.
Compared to the Hallabong, it has a lower sugar content, but is also less sour and equally juicy, with a thinner skin and softer texture. It looks similar to oranges, with a round, smooth appearance. Hwanggeumhyang tangerines are also larger than the average tangerine, and around the same size as a Hallabong.
Harvesting season: July - January
Red Hyang (레드향)
A premium breed, the Red Hyang tangerines are a cross from Jeju's iconic Hallabong and Noji Tangerines. They generally have a higher sugar content than most other tangerine breeds and are hence perfect for those who do not like the sourness in your typical tangerine. Red Hyang tangerines can also be identified by their unique deep reddish-orange colour.
Harvesting season: December to March
Those were our top picks for the best Korean tangerines that you have to try, regardless of whether you’re a fan of regular citrus fruits or not. These Jeju tangerines will definitely make citrus-lovers fall deeper in love, and convert non-believers, so be sure to get your hands on them.
BlueBasket will be bringing in some of these delicious Jeju tangerines, so keep an eye out for them!