Boxes and bags of sweet, juicy little orange fruits from the store are popular in many households, and two firm favorites are Halos and Cuties.
Many people say they prefer one or the other, but what exactly is the difference between these two types of fruit? When it comes to Halos and Cuties, they are both a type of citrus fruit called a mandarin. This is a small fruit consisting of segments of orange flesh, with loose skin that is easy to peel. Halos and Cuties are both brand names used to describe mandarins, but the type of mandarin they sell will vary according to the time of year.
Are your children big fans of these sweet easy-peeling fruits? Let’s find out everything you need to know about Halos Vs Cuties!
What Are Halos?
When we see a box or bag of Halos in the store, it would be easy to assume that this is the name of the type of fruit. But if you tried to buy a Halo fruit tree for your garden, you would be sadly disappointed!
This is because the name “Halos” does not refer to the variety of fruit, but is a brand name used by the manufacturer, Paramount Citrus.
Halos are a variety of citrus fruit called mandarins, grown in California. There are many different types of mandarin, and the growers rely on two main types to give a steady harvest for many months of the year.
The first crop to harvest comes from a type of mandarin called clementine. These are harvested from November to January.
In February, the second type of mandarin starts to become available. These are a variety called W. Murcotts and will be in the shops until May.
So, in case you have ever wondered, this is why we sometimes don’t see Halos in the shops all year round! These fruits are grown in the Californian sunshine, so they may only be sold for 6-7 months of the year.
When it comes to taste, Halos are sweet and juicy. Their flavor is not as strong as some types of orange, but they are not watery. The flesh is dense and free from seeds.
There is not a huge difference in the flavor of different varieties of Halos, but citrus fruit connoisseurs may notice some subtle changes over the seasons.
One of the reasons that Halos are a family favorite is that they are super easy to peel. The skin lifts away easily, making them a great snack for kids and adults alike.
What Are Cuties?
Cuties are often sold alongside Halos in the store and are rapidly becoming a household name. It isn’t uncommon hearing a child ask for a “cutie” when they want a piece of fruit!
Thanks to some clever marketing, Cuties are now one of the most well-known varieties of fruit sold across the U.S.
Cuties are mandarins, grown exclusively in California. To give a longer harvesting period, three types of mandarin trees are grown—clementines, W. Murcotts, and Tangos.
You may notice some seasonal differences in the packaging for Cuties, depending on the time of year.
Some are packaged as straightforward Cutie mandarins, while others are labeled as clementines or summer Cuties. The difference lies in the type of mandarin being harvested at that time.
All the varieties of Cuties have similar characteristics. They are all seedless and easy to peel, with sweet, juicy flesh. A box of Cuties will be quickly devoured in most households, with everyone enjoying this delicious fruit!
What Is A Mandarin?
Many people assume that mandarins are a type of orange, but some people argue that it is the other way round!
The way that we get different types of citrus fruit is quite intriguing. The citrus family includes lemons, limes, grapefruits, oranges, and a myriad of other fruits.
The reason that we have so many types of citrus fruits is a result of how the plants reproduce. Most citrus trees are infertile and are propagated by a technique called grafting.
Over the centuries, many different citrus trees have been crossed together, creating hybrid varieties of citrus fruits.
So, what came first, the mandarin or the orange?
The mandarin tree is actually one of the original types of citrus tree, although it has been tweaked over the centuries to improve the quality of the fruit.
In ancient times, the mandarin was quite bitter, not at all like the fruit we eat today! This fruit is the ancestor of many different types of citrus fruit.
A sweet orange (the type we eat and juice) is actually a hybrid cross of the mandarin tree, and another original form of citrus called a pomelo.
The pomelo is a larger fruit with a thick rind, while the mandarin is renowned for its juicy sweetness. The combination of the two is what created the sweet oranges we know and love today!
So, while you’ll often hear the phrase “mandarin oranges” used, the mandarin is actually the ancestor of the orange.
Are Halos And Cuties The Same As Oranges?
Halos and Cuties are both brand names used to sell varieties of mandarins, grown exclusively in California. Mandarins are a type of citrus fruit, as are oranges, but they are not the same thing.
So, while Halos and Cuties might look like small oranges, they are in fact mandarins! And, just to add to the confusion, the sweet oranges we buy in the store are a hybrid of the mandarin fruit.
This means that Halos and Cuties are very similar to oranges, but they are not the same variety of citrus fruit.
Oranges are a hybrid of the mandarin and the pomelo and are larger than Halos and Cuties. They are also harder to peel and tend to be used for juicing rather than as a fruity snack.
Clementines Vs Mandarins
OK, so let’s clear up another point of confusion—where do clementines fit into this picture? Is a clementine the same as a mandarin, or something different?
The word clementine is used to describe a type of mandarin orange. In fact, clementine is just one of over 200 different varieties of mandarin!
This means that a clementine is a type of mandarin, but many other types of mandarin are not clementines.
The reason that many people think the two are the same thing is that clementine is one of the most popular varieties of mandarin, and makes up a large proportion of the crop sold in grocery stores.
When it comes to Cuties and Halos, both brands rely on clementines for their early-season harvest. This means that they can get delicious sweet orange fruits into the shops as early as possible before the later varieties are ready to harvest.
Do Halos And Cuties Taste The Same All Year Round?
Because of the way Halos and Cuties are grown, they may have some slight and subtle differences in flavor throughout the year.
Firstly, this is due to the different varieties of mandarins that are grown. To give the longest possible cropping period, suppliers cannot rely on just one type of mandarin.
The growers of Halos use clementines as the first early-season crop, then W. Murcotts for the later crop. Cuties use the same varieties, with the addition of Tangos during the spring months as well.
Each variety will have very slight differences in terms of sweetness, the intensity of flavor, and juiciness.
You may not notice the difference over the months, but if the three varieties were placed side-by-side in a taste test you’d be sure to pick out a favorite.
The other reason that Halos and Cuties might not taste the same at different times of year is because of how long they have been stored, and any differences in the growing conditions.
Citrus fruits are very unusual in that they ripen on the tree through the winter months. At the same time as one crop is ripening, the tree will be flowering in preparation for the next crop.
The fruit will ripen slowly, so one tree may be harvested for several weeks or even months. The fruit may then be stored in cool conditions, to preserve them for as long as possible.
All of these tiny factors will influence the sweetness and juiciness of the mandarins, leading to seasonal changes in the flavor throughout the year.
Halos Vs Cuties – What Is The Difference?
We’ll often see Cuties sold alongside Halos in the store, and some people claim to prefer one to the other. But is there really a difference, or is it all just a clever marketing gimmick?
Well, in all honesty, the only true difference is that Halos use just two varieties of mandarin (clementines and W. Murketts) while Cuties use Tango mandarins as well.
So, if you got a box of Tango Cuties, you might notice a difference in sweetness or flavor from a box of clementine Halos.
Apart from this, both suppliers grow their fruit in the same region, using the same techniques.
The only other impact that might create a difference between them is the freshness of the fruit, so you might notice variations between them towards the end of the harvesting season.
But apart from this, we’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between Halos and Cuties at all!
How To Store Halos And Cuties
Halos and Cuties are sold in a range of different pack sizes, from little nets of two or three mandarins through to 5lb boxes.
It can be tempted to go for the bigger boxes as they are such good value for money, but how do you store them to keep them at their best?
As it turns out, that wooden crate isn’t just a cute marketing gimmick—it is actually the perfect transportation and storage container for mandarins!
To be kept at their best, mandarins should be well ventilated, and the open top of the box allows air to circulate. The same applies to the netted bags of mandarins, which keep them well ventilated.
This is perfect for storing them in the shops, but you’ll need to make sure your mandarins are also kept in perfect condition when you get them home.
If they are likely to be eaten within 3-4 days, there is no problem with keeping them in their box or a fruit bowl. If you want to keep them for longer than this, they’ll need a little bit of extra care and attention.
The best way to preserve the lifespan of mandarins is to store them in a single layer in a cool, dark place.
The best container for this is one with a mesh or ventilated base, that allows air to circulate. Try to leave gaps between the fruit to prevent them from touching each other.
Stored in this way, your mandarins will stay fresh for 1-2 weeks. Check them daily and remove any that have started to turn moldy or rotten.
You can extend this timeframe slightly by popping a few mandarins in the salad drawer of the refrigerator. This will keep them fresh for another 3-4 days.
Now we’ve got the Halos Vs Cuties conundrum all sorted, let’s find out about some other hot topics from the world of oranges!
Can you freeze mandarins?
If you’ve got a batch of mandarins that won’t get eaten before they turn bad, you can preserve them for longer by freezing them.
Mandarins that have been frozen will become softer in texture than the fresh version but are still delicious and great for desserts and smoothies.
It is possible to freeze fresh mandarins whole, but for the sake of convenience, it is easier to peel them and separate them into segments first.
Once defrosted, a whole mandarin is very tricky to peel without creating a juicy mess!
Peel the mandarins, and lay the segments out onto parchment paper on a baking tray.
Pop the tray into the freezer until the segments are frozen, then decant them into a Ziplock bag. Label and date the bag, and use the mandarins within 10 months.
How long do canned mandarins last?
In the summer months, when fresh mandarins are not available, the canned variety can make a good substitute. Canned mandarins are normally available either in juice or syrup and have a long shelf life before they are opened.
Once you have opened a can of mandarins, they can be stored in the refrigerator to keep them fresh for 5-7 days.
They should be decanted from the can into an airtight container, as the metal from the can may taint the flavor of the fruit when exposed to air.
If you are not going to eat the remainder of your can of mandarins within a week, they can also be frozen. This will alter the texture of the fruit, turning them mushy and juicy—not great for eating, but amazing for smoothies and desserts!
What are dried mandarins?
Another great way to enjoy mandarins during the summer months is by eating dried mandarins.
These are segments of mandarin fruits that have been carefully dried in a low oven or dehydrator, preserving their sweet, orange flavor for many months.
You can buy dried mandarins, or they are easy to make at home. Spread mandarin segments on your dehydrator tray or oven rack, and spray with lemon juice.
Dry the segments at 125°F for 10-12 hours, then store them in a cool, dry place.
If you are feeling really creative, you can also dehydrate the mandarin peel, which can then be ground up and used as a flavoring. Intense orange freshness, all year round!
If you’d like to learn more about Halos mandarins, check out this great video on the subject!
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