Dear Readers, is there any fruit more redolent of Christmas than a clementine? Easy to peel, even for little sticky toddler hands, sweet, (usually) seedless and just the right size to stick in the toe of a Christmas stocking, my local greengrocer sells whole crates of them with the leaves still attached in December. I sometimes wish that they were around in October when it’s Halloween – surely one of these would be better for Trick or Treaters than the endless chocolate?
Clementines are a cross between a willowleaf mandarin orange (Citrus x deliciosa) and a sweet orange (Citrus x sinensis), and are named for Clément Rodier, a French missionary who first discovered and propagated the cultivar in Algeria. He ran an orphanage in Misserghin in Algeria and, while working in the institution’s citrus grove, found an interesting wild tree growing amongst some thorns. He made some grafts from this tree, and the result was the clementine, which proved to be very popular with the orphans and with the other Holy Brothers. Brother Clément died in 1904, and is buried in Misserghin.
Now, it’s very easy to get overloaded with clementines if your forward planning isn’t what it might be, and if your husband is very keen on them, so I have discovered the clementine cake, which is now a regular festive favourite. There cannot be an easier cake. Boil up four or five clementines until they are soft, and remove any hard stems or (heaven forfend) pips. Mix them with ground almonds, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Pop in the oven until done. If the urge comes upon you, you can make an icing of icing sugar and lemon or orange juice, but seriously, it’s delicious without it – it reminds me of one of those Middle-Eastern syrup cakes, though without the addition of syrup, and it will keep for a good week, though I doubt it will last that long. The recipe is a Nigella original, and you can find the whole thing here.
Clementines are apparently less troubled by cold conditions than many other citrus varieties, but today most of them come from hot regions such Spain and North Africa. However, China tops the chart for the production of all of the little citrus varieties (tangerines, mandarins, clementines and satsumas) with a whopping 17.2 million tonnes. Most of our clementines in the UK seem to come from Spain and Morocco these days.
A single clementine will provide 59% of your daily Vitamin C requirement, so tuck in!
And finally, I loved this poem by Wendy Cope so much (thank you again, sllgatsby, my poetry guru) that I wanted to share it with all of you. I think it captures those ordinary moments that somehow seem to burst with unexpected joy.
At lunchtime I bought a huge orange–
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and
They got quarters and I had a half.
And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.
The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.