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What Is a Naartjie?

Liz Thomas
Liz Thomas

Naartjie refers to a citrus fruit that is grown in South Africa. The name can also be spelled with only one "a", "nartjie". It is sometimes described as soft citrus. The word itself is Afrikaans, and the fruit existed as far back as 1790. Small and round, it most resembles tangerines or mandarins in both appearance and flavor.

The taste of the naartjie can be compared to eating an orange and mandarin at the same time, both sweet and tart. The fruit is eaten like an orange, as the skin is loose and easily peels away. The inside, or meat, is divided into segments and may be peeled apart and then eaten.

As of 2009, this fruit was responsible for nine percent of the citrus fruit market in South Africa. The eastern cape grows the majority of naartjie. Approximately one third of the entire soft fruit crop in the region is grown on the eastern cape.

Tangerines look similar to naartjie.
Tangerines look similar to naartjie.

Agriculturalists believe that this soft citrus fruit is a descendant of the orange. Originating in China, the orange spread quickly throughout the rest of the world and adapted very well to varying growth conditions. These conditions resulted in variations between the species. In the subtropical climate of South Africa, this fruit became what is now known as the naartjie.

Naartjie is a citrus fruit grown in South Africa.
Naartjie is a citrus fruit grown in South Africa.

From 2000 to 2009, this was the most expensive citrus fruit grown in South Africa. This is due in part to the fact that South Africa is the only producer of the naartjie, and demand for it remained very stable for many years. Most naartjie is exported to European countries.

The name of this fruit is actually two words combined. Nartei translates in the English word citrus and tjie at then end indicates that the citrus is small or diminutive. This perfectly describes the fruit as it looks like an orange but is about half as big.

As with other citrus fruits, this soft citrus is loaded with vitamins. It is a rich source of folate, vitamin C and beta-carotene. It also contains high levels of magnesium and potassium.

In recipes, the South African soft citrus can be used in place of tangerines and oranges. Cooks use the juice from the fruit in recipes, grate the rind for flavor, and at times will cut up the fruit and add it to salads and other dishes. It is used in main dishes, salads and desserts.

Discussion Comments


I would highly recommend Naartjie to anyone who likes citrus fruits. It cannot be compared to satsumas (which are often dry and unappetizing when they arrive in the UK), the taste and smell are more intensive and are a little sharper than mandarins or satsumas, and the flesh is firm and juicy. Both my daughters grow Naartjies in their gardens and whilst in the Kruger area recently I bought dried Naartjies to bring home. Wonderful to just chew on but also in gin. I dry Seville oranges for cooking and these dried Naartjies will be used similarly, such as with rhubarb or with beetroot. Fantastic fruit.


It's easily something I would eat a lot of, and it's not that expensive. You can still get it for R5 a bag, since the dollar now is R12. It's nice but can get boring as there's so much of it.


Naartjies are only grown on an industrial scale in South Africa, and the demand in South Africa exceeds the production. It is the most expensive citrus in the country so export is little to none existent. Naartjies would grow well in California but there is no existing market in the USA, the research needed for the Federal government to approve a foreign species for planting is unlikely to happen for such an unknown fruit.

Be sure to pick one up on your first visit


@burcinc-- I'm not an expert on citrus fruits. As far as I know, mandarins, clementines and tangerines are similar but they are not the same. Their flavors and appearance vary a little bit.

I think the closest citrus fruit to a naartjie is the satsuma orange or mandarin which is Japanese. Some believe that the naartjie is of Japanese origin and was taken to China from Japan. This makes sense because naartjie exists in both countries and is known as migan or mikan.

An expert can explain the differences between these fruits in detail. But Americans who want to eat naartjie can buy satsuma instead, which is available across the US.


Are naartjie and clementine the same?


I hadn't even heard of naartjie until now. I have never seen it at a grocery store, I guess US doesn't import it, at least not much. But I love mandarins and I'm sure I would love this fruit as well if I had an opportunity to try it. If I ever make a trip to South Africa, naartjie will be on top of my list of foods to try.

If naartjie adopts well to different growing conditions, why is it not being grown in Florida or California? I'm sure the climate in both states would be suitable for it.

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    • Tangerines look similar to naartjie.
      By: hanabiyori
      Tangerines look similar to naartjie.
    • Naartjie is a citrus fruit grown in South Africa.
      By: Ruslan Olinchuk
      Naartjie is a citrus fruit grown in South Africa.