‘Tis the season for juicy, sweet clementines, sometimes referred to as Christmas oranges. Generally available from late fall to sometime in February, clementines are at their peak right around the winter holiday season. These succulent fruits get steadily sweeter as the season progresses and reach peak sweetness by about December.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that clementines are the same as tangerines.
Clementines are actually the smallest variety of mandarin oranges; they are actually a cross between a sweet orange and a Chinese mandarin. Grown primarily in Spain, North Africa and California, this little, sweet, usually seedless fruit is rich in vitamin C but also is a good source of calcium, dietary fiber, antioxidants and folic acid.
Two clementines have about the same nutrition as one medium orange: 80 calories, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber and no fat or sodium. Two clementines also provide about one carbohydrate serving for someone with diabetes and would be a good addition to their meal plan. A single clementine has only 35-40 calories and more than 145 percent of the daily requirement for vitamin C.
When choosing clementines the skin should be bright and shiny and have a pleasant citrus smell with no hint of mustiness. The fruit should be firm but with a slight give, indicating juiciness. When buying clementines by the crate, check for consistent color throughout, which shows that all the fruit was picked at the same level of maturity.
More often than not, the smaller the clementine the sweeter it is. Once purchased, clementines will keep at room temperature for about two to seven days, and up to two weeks when refrigerated.
This fruit is very versatile. It can be used in any recipe that calls for mandarin oranges such as stir-fry dishes and tossed, spinach or fruit salads. Consumers may initially shy away from purchasing clementines because of their price. You can find them locally at prices ranging from $4.99 to $7.99 per 5-pound crate. With 25 or more per crate, you can have a delicious fruit for just 20 to 32 cents each.
Clementines are easy to peel, making them a favorite with children. The easy peeling along with the small segments makes them a perfect snack food. Take a break from all of the holiday baked sweets that are around and have a couple nutritious clementines for an afternoon snack this week.
Chicken Tortillas with Clementines, Black Bean Salsa and Chipotle Sour Cream
I love recipes that combine protein and fruit. I haven’t tried this one yet, but it sounds like a winner. The salsa and sour cream can be made up in advance and stored in the refrigerator ready for a quick, very nutritious, put together meal when you get home from work.
Four 8-inch flour tortillas, warmed slightly
2 cups cooked chicken breast meat thinly sliced or shredded
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups canned black beans, rinsed and drained thoroughly
1 cup clementines, chopped into ½-inch pieces
¼ of a red onion, minced
½ cup cilantro leaves, chopped
¼ teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon lime juice
½ teaspoon salt
For Chipotle Sour Cream:
1 cup sour cream
1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo, chopped
2 tablespoons clementine juice
2 teaspoons clementine zest
Season cooked chicken with salt and pepper if needed; set aside. In a medium-size bowl, mix together black beans, clementines, onion, cilantro leaves, cumin, lime juice and salt; set aside. (This may be made a day ahead and refrigerated.) In a blender or food processor, add sour cream, chipotles in adobo, clementine juice and zest and blend thoroughly. Transfer to a small bowl; set aside. (This also may be done a day ahead and refrigerated.) Place warm tortilla on a plate. Place ½ cup of chicken in center, top with ½ cup of black bean salsa and 2 tablespoons chipotle sour cream. Fold one edge of the tortilla over filling and continue to roll up. Repeat with remainder of tortillas. Slice tortilla in half and serve with additional chipotle sour cream.
Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian and adjunct nutrition instructor at Eastern Maine Community College who lives in Athens. Read more of her columns and post questions at bangordailynews.com or email her at GeorgiaMaineMSRDCDE@gmail.com.