Mandarin oil, a prime ingredient of Aybury’s Limenence range, has “a fragrant odour reminding of sweet orange oil…” according to Verrill’s authoritative Perfumes and Spices (1940). It’s obtained “by expression from the peel of the fruit of Citrus madurenis, a small tree found in nearly every lemon garden in Sicily. One tree produces about 1000 fruits per annum and these yield about 400 grams of a bright golden-yellow oil.”
One of the delicious mysteries of the sublime Citrus madurenis fruit is the origin of its popular name: the English is almost certainly derived from the French mandarine, but beyond that? Generally it’s agreed the word comes from the Chinese mandarin, referring to powerful or influential public figures – and then probably linked to the yellow-orange robes worn by dignitaries in the courts of Imperial China, whose hats had a button that made a shape not unlike the fruit. In the T’ang dynasty, the fruiting of mandarin trees indoors produced “formal congratulations to the monarch on his divine charisma.”
As part of the citrus family, the mandarin is joined by the ubiquitous orange and its more exotic cousins: the clementine, kumquat, minneola or tangelo (cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit), and satsuma from Japan. Mandarins - in their various forms – are thought to have descended from wild oranges that grew in northeast India up to 3,000 years ago, although some say they originated in China.
The first of these small, loose-skinned ‘oranges’ was brought to England from China in 1805. From England, the mandarin made its way to Italy in the next decade, and from Italy it came into wide cultivation and spread to other Mediterranean countries including those in North Africa. Mandarins were introduced into the United States in the 1840s by the Italian consul in New Orleans. From New Orleans, the mandarin spread to Florida and California.
In traditional Chinese medicine, dried mandarin peel is often used for well-being and balance, and to enhance digestion. Across Asia today, the fruit symbolises good fortune. In Russia, mandarins are traditionally used as New Year tree decorations, while the first batch of mandarins to arrive every year from Japan to Vancouver, British Columbia, is greeted with a festival combining Santa Claus and girls dressed in traditional kimonos.
Check out the fragrance of Frankincense too.
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