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.
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.
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.
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.