Winter is upon us, and what better indicator of it than bushels of sunny, orange miniature citrus fruits?
Like many people around my age, I was introduced to clementines as a lunch bag accoutrement some time late into grade school. Rather, I should say I was bombarded with them in multiples of twos and threes–they seemed to appear everywhere, not just in lunch bags anymore but in my gifts, Christmas stockings, and were tossed at me like hackey sacks every time I tried to leave the house. At first I may have guessed that my parents were so enthralled by the fruit that they decided to buy barrels full of them (and no doubt the novelty of the crates made this true to some extent). Then it occurred to me that clementines were sold only in bulk, and came in a flaky birch wood crate holding about 25 of the little seedless juicy nuggets.
It was generally accepted that this was so for a while: clementines were clementines, and they were only sold in bulk. Shipped in from Europe (mostly Spain), where the fruits are even more popular, the clementine didn’t catch on in America until a season of devastating weather for orange farmers in Florida in 1997 made us import citrus from Europe. This article explains how the particular characteristics that make clementines so attractive (i.e. easy to peel, mild sweet flavor) was cultivated in Spanish soil. Which also explains why they’re mainly sold in large quantities. But according to wikipedia though, they’ve also been grown in California since 1914.
Here in New York I see both Spanish-imported crates of clementines (Darling being the most common brand) as well as domestic ones sold in stores and bodegas. So my question is, is it some useless tradition that clementines have to be sold in big crates? Since the fruit has most certainly caught on in the states and are produced here, when are we going to be able to buy them individually, or at least in more urban-friendly sized boxes? Not that I have anything against eating a lot of them.