In a sense, then, the clementine epitomises the way in which we’ve grown distant from our food sources. It also shows up some gaps in our knowledge of everyday produce. Consider how interchangeably we use the words “clementine”, “tangerine” and “satsuma” to refer to any kind of small orange, unaware of the precise differences between them. Satsumas are softer, with looser skin and a subtle flavour, while clementines have a thinner, more fragrant skin and zingier taste; tangerines have the strongest flavour of all, but are harder to peel.
It’s that “easy peel” factor, along with a lack of pips, that has really catapulted clementines and satsumas above old-fashioned oranges in the popularity stakes. This has also brought them some detractors, notably the food author Rose Prince, who, writing for The Telegraph in December 2009, lamented the British disdain for natural “imperfections” in fruit, such as seeds or stubborn rind. “I will never forget an Italian agronomist asking what it was with the British and pips,” she relates. “’In Italy, a fruit without pips is not natural but something to regard with suspicion,’ he said.”