A honey tangerine is also known as a Murcott orange and is grown only in Florida. The exact origin of the fruit is uncertain, but it's thought to be a mix of a tangerine and a sweet orange, which is called a tangor. The name Murcott refers to Charles Murcott Smith who ran a nursery in Bayview, Florida and is thought to have developed the honey tangerine in the early 1920s. J. Ward Smith and W.T. Swindle are also said to have been involved in the creation of this fruit.
The Murcott orange is the first fruit of its kind to be sold by the product name of honey tangerine. The color of the fruit varies, but it is often an orange-red unless the winter growing conditions were warm and then the skin may be more yellow-orange. It has the slightly flattened looking shape of a typical tangerine and is small to medium-sized. The flesh is a vivid orange and the seed count is fairly high with up to 12-24 seeds per tangerine. The skin is a little harder to peel than that of a typical tangerine.
The honey tangerine is named for its sweet taste and it's the sweetest variety of tangerine. It has a higher sugar content that the honeybell, or Minneola tangelo, which is another variety of tangerine. Juice from this fruit can be used in baking desserts such as orange cakes. The juice is also delicious in salad dressings and fruit salads. For a quick and simple summer dinner, you can add honey tangerines, canned fish, salad dressing and croutons to a bed of salad greens. You can also throw some honey tangerine segments into a stir fry at the very last minute to zip things up.
When buying honey tangerines, or Murcott oranges, look for fruit that feels heavy and that has a smooth, shiny skin. Tangerines that feel very light may not be that juicy. Tangerines with shrivelled skin, green spots other than at the stem end or white areas anywhere should be avoided. These fruits spoil quickly compared to other oranges and may only keep for a couple of days at room temperature and a week in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. Honey tangerines are grown only in Florida and are usually only available between January and March or April.