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Review: Mini Honey mandarin oranges

Mini Honey mandarin oranges
A box of “Mini Honey” mandarin oranges. All this for only $3 at my grocery store? Insanity, I say.

Have you ever thought to yourself, “Damn, I love mandarin oranges, but I hate how huge they are.” Well, you’re in luck.

The “Mini Honey” mandarin orange is your dream come true. They’re tiny mandarin oranges, each one smaller than a golf ball, that have been popping up during the holiday season at grocery stores everywhere in the past few years. They’re cheap (about $3 for a box), sweet, and snackable.

The problem? The quality is wildly inconsistent. Of the two boxes I bought at the same store on the same day, plucked from the same shelf, one box was sweet and juicy, and the other was much more dry and seedy, with at least a few rotting fruit. Lesson? Every box is a $3 gamble.

A perfect mini honey mandarin is wonderful. Sweet and heavy with juice, the skin peels away to reveal a plump little bundle of orange sections. Each section pulls apart from the others effortlessly, just like with regular mandarin oranges. You should be able to crush a section in your mouth with only a small amount of pressure from your tongue. And you can’t stop at one – when they’re good, you can polish off half a box without noticing.

A sub-standard mini honey mandarin is dry on the inside, a disappointing mouthful of stringy pulp without much juice. Some particularly bad boxes are laced with half a dozen seeds per orange. If you get one of these, you’ll know.

A few more tips:

– The skin peels off easily, just like with regular mandarin oranges. The skin is juicy, so don’t eat them while typing or clicking. The peels are aromatic, so expect colleagues to pop their heads up over their cubicle walls when the wave of citrus air hits them.

– Seedless? Maybe, maybe not. I spotted some boxes last year that made the claim, but I still got seeds in them. Other boxes had oranges with multiple giant seeds in practically every fruit. Instead of easy workplace snacking, I was spitting seeds non-stop into my garbage can. Every box is different.

– To be blunt, $3 per box doesn’t buy a lot of quality control. As such …

– A quick visual inspection never hurts. They’re not individually wrapped in paper, so you can get a good overview of their state of freshness by opening the box and glancing in. It’s not uncommon to find one rotten fruit in a box. If you get one, remove it as soon as you get it home.

– They’re a great sharable workplace snack. People love them, and it’s easy (and cheap) to share a box or two with colleagues over the course of the month.

Mini Honey mandarin oranges
Mini Honey mandarin oranges, piled up in a small bowl. They’re smaller than this photo makes them look.

RATINGS AND DETAILS

Cost: $2.99 per 1.5 lbs. case. I counted 20 oranges in the case.

Value for cash money: Almost criminally cheap. It amazes me that it’s possible to ship these from China for $2.99 per case. How is that even profitable? They’re cheap enough to warrant buying a couple cases at a time.

Availability: They were harder to find a few years ago, but they’re everywhere this year. Any decent Edmonton grocery store should have them.

Nutrition?: There’s no info on the box, but I’d guess they’re a healthy snack. They’re oranges, after all. Tiny, tiny oranges.

Beware the dry winter air: Last year, I noticed that whenever I left any mini honey oranges out on my office desk for a couple of days, they’d shrivel up and turn hard very quickly. They don’t get along with dry office air, apparently.

The verdict: When they’re great, they’re great. But quality is all over the place. You only know if you’ve bought a good box once you’ve eaten a few oranges, but it’s well worth the risk.

Mini Honey mandarin oranges
A Mini Honey mandarin orange, peeled in one piece. That’s easy to do with this type of orange.

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