A palate cleanser, an excellent source of vitamin C and a versatile ingredient in the kitchen, mandarin can also be a tombola marker at Italian Christmastime.

Believe it or not, in addition to desserts, chocolate, pandoro and panettone, fried food and sweets, in Italy we also save some room for fresh fruit at Christmastime. One in particular: mandarins. Real winter’s protagonists as all citrus fruits, mandarins are the Christmas fruit par excellence: their peel was used in the past (and sometimes still is today) to mark off the numbers in the tombola, a sort of Italian bingo. Not to be confused with clementines, their more popular seedless variety, mandarins have a rather pale, orange-yellow skin, a sour flavour and an unmistakable aroma (mandarin marmalades are delicious). Like all citrus fruits, they are an excellent source of vitamin C (high in kiwis as well), essential when the cold season hits. Besides being a palate cleanser at the end of the meal, mandarins can also be used in desserts and savoury dishes, for example to flavour meat, or their grated peel can be used as seasoning for vegetable dishes, and their juice to enrich fish-based dishes.