Courtesy of the Florida Department of CitrusTangerine consumption is growing in the United States.Florida's tangerine growers are losing ground to California and Spain, which have capitalized on the success of Clementine varieties, marketed under such brands as "Cuties."
A group of University of Florida researchers want to reverse that trend by identifying what consumers want in zipper-skin fruit and then selecting for those traits, according to a news release.
Between 2005 and 2009, the value of the Florida tangerine crop dropped to $43 million from $52 million while tangerine consumption in general has increased, according to figures from citrus economist Tom Spreen.
When asked what they seek in tangerines, consumers in surveys have ranked flavor first, even above seedlessness and ease of peeling.
Fred Gmitter, a UF citrus breeder at the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, is leading a team exploring the volatile compounds that give tangerines their flavor.
Although a lot of work has looked at volatiles in oranges, similar information is lacking for tangerines.
Using a gas chromotography olfactometer, which analyzes the components of tangerine aroma, the researchers found 49 different compounds.
“I want to understand the genetics that lay underneath all of this stuff, so we can develop molecular markers, and then we can select seedlings at a very young age that we think should have good flavor attributes,” Gmitter said in the release.