The name was first used for fruit coming from Tangier, Morocco, described as a mandarin variety. Under the Tanaka classification system, Citrus tangerina is considered a separate species. Under the Swingle system, tangerines are considered to be a group of mandarin (C. reticulata) varieties. Genetic study has shown tangerines to be mandarin orange hybrids containing some pomelo DNA. Some differ only in disease resistance. The term is currently applied to any reddish-orange mandarin (and, in some jurisdictions, mandarin-like hybrids, including some tangors).
Tangerines are smaller and less rounded than common oranges. The taste is considered less sour, as well as sweeter and stronger, than that of an orange. A ripe tangerine is firm to slightly soft, heavy for its size, and pebbly-skinned with no deep grooves, as well as orange in color. The peel is very thin, with very little bitter white mesocarp, which makes them usually easier to peel and to split into segments. All of these traits are shared by mandarins generally.
Peak tangerine season lasts from autumn to spring. Tangerines are most commonly peeled and eaten out of hand. The fresh fruit is also used in salads, desserts and main dishes. The peel is used fresh or dried as a spice or zest for baking and drinks, and eaten coated in chocolate. Fresh tangerine juice and frozen juice concentrate are commonly available in the United States.