A tangelo is the product of crossing tangerine with grapefruit or pummelo. The tangelo inherited some characteristics from its parent, the tangerine, but it is so distinctly different from it and other citrus fruits, tangelo is in a botanical class of its own. Both fruits have the characteristic rich orange skin color, segmented inner fruit, and are favored for eating fresh. They differ significantly in size, shape, juiciness and skin thickness.
Size, Shape and Color
Tangerines and tangelos are both rich, reddish-orange. The skin of the tangerine is thick, loose and more pebbly than the tangelo, whose skin is thin, adheres more to the inner fruit, and has only a slightly pebbled texture. Tangerines are about half the size of tangelos, although some tangelo varieties can be near the size of grapefruit. A medium tangerine weighs about 3 ounces while a medium tangelo weighs 7 ounces, producing a 1/2-cup and 1-cup serving, respectively. Minneola is the oldest and best known variety of tangelo. Also known as "Honeybells," Minneolas have a knobby formation at the stem end, which gives them a bell shape. Tangerines are round or oval in shape. Tangerines generally have one seed per segment while tangelos are mostly seedless.
Any discussion or comparison of flavors between the tangerine and tangelo is probably flawed. Individual tastes vary and for every person who swears the tangerine has the better flavor, another person will say that the tangelo is superior. Flavor is commonly described as sweet-tart for both fruits with some sources suggesting the tangelo is slightly more tart than the tangerine. Both are considered sub-acid and less likely to result in a sore mouth if you eat a lot of them.
Tangerines ripen earlier than tangelos. Tangerines are available from November to January and tangelos come to market December through February. Both are traditional gift fruits for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
How to Eat
Children may prefer tangerines over tangelos as a snack fruit because of their smaller size and loose skin that is easy for small hands to peel. The smaller tangerine segments separate cleanly into kid-size bites, which results in less mess than eating tangelos. Larger, juicier tangelos, with their complex sweet-tart flavor, work well for juicing or fruit salads.