Why are Tangerines Hard to Peel?

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Why are Tangerines Hard to Peel?

If you’ve ever tried to peel a tangerine, chances are there was a bit of swearing involved. These delicious fruits require some intense struggle to get to their tasty insides! Have you ever wondered why are tangerines hard to peel? Then read on!

So Why Are Tangerines Hard to Peel?

unripe tangerine

Many different citrus fruits can be hard to peel but tangerines are notorious for this issue. The main reason is that they have a lot of fibers that attach the peels to the pith. This is the white stuff that coats internal citrus segments. It’s usually quite bitter to the taste, and is the inner skin that protects the fruit within.

Citrus fruits that have less pith are easier to peel.

Additionally, you can remove tangerine peels more easily as the fruits ripen. Immature fruits have skins that cling very tightly to the inner segments, while mature fruits’ skins loosen away from the fruits.

Read This Next: What does a Tangerine Taste Like?

How Do You Peel a Tangerine Easily?

peeled tangerine

If you’ve experienced great frustration trying to peel tangerines in the past, chances are you’ve been doing it the “wrong” way.

Don’t worry: pretty much all of us have been doing the same thing. Fortunately, we have seen the light and can now offer you some handy tips on how to peel a tangerine much more easily in the future.

Step 1: Roll it Around

The first thing you do is roll the tangerine around gently on a tabletop or other hard, flat surface. Rolling tangerines loosen the bonds between the skin and flesh beneath so it’s easier to peel.

Step 2: Poke Your Finger Into It

You know that part of the tangerine that looks like a divot or bellybutton? If it’s not immediately apparent, it’ll be the opposite side of the bit that sticks out like a knob.

Poke your finger into it. Seriously, push it in about 1/2″ deep and wiggle it around a bit.

Step 3: Peel a Small Piece Downwards

Pull your finger out of the divot, and then slide that same finger between the peel and the flesh. Your nail should be aimed downwards so it slides along the flesh side, rather than the skin.

This will loosen the peel away from the segments.

Step 3: Continue Peeling in a Long Strip

Rather than moving your hand somewhere else, you’re going to keep working your way downwards from that small piece you pulled back. Keep sliding your fingernail down the tangerine’s flesh to loosen the peel as you turn the tangerine gently with the opposite hand.

As you do so, use your thumb to gently help to pull the skin away. Do this really slowly so you’re pulling the skin off in a long, consistent strip. When you get to the bumpy end, stick your nail in a bit deeper to help pull it free. Then continue along that line so you have a full strip pulled off almost all the way around. Stop about 1/2″ from where you began.

Step 4: Pull the Sides Free

Now that you’ve peeled almost back to the beginning point, it’s time to pull the sides free.

Slide a few fingers beneath one of the side peels, nail side down against the flesh. Then pull gently.

These side pieces should simply fall off the inner flesh into your hands. You’ll have two perfect little tangerine peel cups that you can transform into candles, shred into marmalade, or simply toss into the compost bin.

Check out the video below for a visual guide!

Should Tangerines Be Hard or Soft?

firm tangerine

If you’re shopping for tangerines at the supermarket, there are some key details to look for.

A perfectly ripe tangerine should have a slight give when you squeeze it slightly. It shouldn’t feel hard or dry, but nor should it feel squishy. Feel all the way around it, and don’t choose any that have noticeable squidgy spots.

Aim for one that has that slight give we mentioned, and also a fair bit of weight in your hand. The more weight a fruit has, the greater its water (juice) content.

Tangerines that feel light or are very firm to the touch have dried out inside. They might be a bit easier to peel, but their flesh will be incredibly disappointing. Instead of being juicy and sweet, it’ll be grainy and flavorless.

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Do You Peel or Cut Tangerines?

You can do either, depending on how you’re planning to enjoy them!

For example, if you’re aiming to add tangerine segments to fruit salad, or dip them into chocolate, then you’ll want to peel them first. The same goes for if you’re putting the sections through a juicer.

In contrast, if you’re using an old-fashioned reamer to create tangerine juice, or you plan to scoop out the insides with a grapefruit spoon, then you can cut your fruits in half. Aim to cut in half horizontally, rather than through the divot (stem end). This way you’ll have easy access to the flesh within. 

Related Article: 33 Fruits that are Considered Citrus

What Causes Thick Skin on Citrus?

thick skin citrus

Thick skin develops on all kinds of citrus fruits because of nutritional imbalances. If you’re growing your own citrus fruits and you’ve noticed that their skins are thicker than they should be, you’ll need to adjust the soil nutrient ratios.

Generally, thick skins are caused by too much nitrogen in the soil. When this nutrient is too highly concentrated, you’ll get more skin than inner fruit flesh.

In order to balance it out, you’ll need to reduce nitrogen (N) and increase potassium (K) and phosphorous (P). Have you been using a commercial fertilizer to help feed your citrus trees? If so, make sure the N is the lowest number in the N-P-K ratio listed on the front. You may have to invest in some other plant food if they’re equally balanced, or if the N is the highest number listed.

Alternatively, you can just work some extra bone meal into the soil. This is high in phosphorous and has very little nitrogen content.

Now that you’re a tangerine-peeling expert, you’ll be able to become a traveling sage and share your wisdom with others. The next time someone cries out asking “why are tangerines hard to peel?”, you can sit them down by the fire and show them The Way.