Why Are My Tangerines Sour? (Not Sweet)

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Why are my tangerines sour?

There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of biting into a sweet, juicy tangerine is there? Well, unless it turns out to be sour and disappointing, of course. If you have this kind of shock and are wondering “why are my tangerines sour instead of sweet?”, read on.

So Why are my Tangerines Sour?

Have you experienced the heartbreaking disappointment of a sour tangerine? Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why you’re not reveling in sweetness right now.

Sour Store-Bought Tangerines

The number one reason why store-bought tangerines are tart instead of sweet is that they were picked too early.

Anyone who’s grown fruits or vegetables knows that these plants ripen according to their own schedule. Flowers get pollinated at different times and their resulting fruits will mature accordingly. Commercial growers don’t always have the time (or the patience) to wait for these fruits to ripen fully, however. Instead, they’ll pick whatever’s on the tree in order to make a quota or a shipping deadline.

This harvesting method will provide inconsistent flavors and textures in our beloved fruits. Some of the tangerines they pick will be perfectly ripe and delicious. Others will be tart and dry rather than juicy.

If your crate of tangerines is making your jaw ache, then an overeager harvest is probably the culprit.

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Sour Home-Grown Tangerines

Are you growing tangerines on your own land or in a greenhouse? If so, did you grow your tree from a seed? Or did you buy a propagated young tree from a nursery?

Most citrus trees are propagated by grafting cut branches from mature trees onto new rootstock. This ensures that the resulting fruits will taste the same as the ones from the parent tree.

In contrast, the fruits that appear on trees grown from seed are a crapshoot. Just like several children born to a set of parents, they could have any number of traits from the DNA they inherited. If the parents have eight kids, they’ll likely all inherit different combinations of hair color, eye color, facial features, and personality traits.

Fruits grown from grafted trees, however, are basically clones. Instead of the random genetic inheritance, they’ll all turn out exactly like the original tree’s fruits.

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How Do You Make Tangerines Sweeter?

If you’re growing tangerines and they’re only producing sour fruit, check their variety. Many people accidentally grow Rangpur limes thinking that they’re growing tangerines. These fruits look very similar, but limes are significantly more tart than tangerines.

When you’re absolutely certain that you are in fact growing tangerines, make sure to leave them on the tree as long as possible. Citrus fruits can stay on the branch for months and continue to ripen. Furthermore, the longer they keep ripening on the tree, the sweeter they’ll become.

If you go this route and your tangerines are still sour, then your only option is grafting. Find an orchard that’s known for producing really sweet tangerines. Then talk to their arborist about the possibility of getting mature grafts for your own trees. Once the grafts have been taken, your trees should start producing sweeter, juicier tangerines within a couple of years.

Can You Sweeten Store-Bought Tangerines?

In a word? Nope.

Citrus fruits stop ripening as soon as they’re picked. As mentioned earlier, if they’ve been harvested too early (e.g. while they’re still sour) then they’ll remain sour when they arrive on your table.

The only way to sweeten up store-bought tangerines is to add sugar, agave syrup, or maple to them. You can try transforming them into marmelade or jelly, or else can them in simple syrup. If you go the latter route, leave them in the jars for a month or so in order to really absorb the sugar. Then you can incorporate them into your favorite recipes. By then, they should have the trademark sweetness that you love so much.

So, if you’ve been wondering “why are my tangerines sour and what can I do about it?”, now you know. Hopefully, you can salvage the fruits you already have with some creative prep work. Try not to be disappointed: just go to a different supermarket and get some tangerines from a different location. With any luck, these will bring more sweetness than bitterness into your world.

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