Mandarins are one of the many reasons Jeju Island is well loved by visitors. Approximately 500,000 metric tons of the citrus fruit are produced on the island every year, accounting for a majority of the tangerine production in Korea.
Due to the tropical climate of Jeju Island, mandarins usually ripen during the summer. But the fresh, zingy fruit is also available year-round, and is still as sweet as honey during the winter.
With its rich volcanic soil and a temperature averaging at 15 degrees Celsius, Jeju provides prime conditions for cultivating the vibrant fruit, and has been doing so for hundreds of years.
History of Mandarins and Jeju:
The earliest known records show the island was known as the kingdom of Tamna. Evidence indicates that the people of Tamna were engaging in trade with other Asian countries such as China, Japan, Singapore, Thailand and India as well as mainland Korea, as early as the 1st century AD up until its dissolution.
Biologists assume that the origin of the tangerine is India and it spread east and finally came to Jeju island.
In 1404, Jeju Island came under direct rule of the mainland Joseon dynasty. A travel ban was implemented for almost 200 years and many uprisings by Jeju Island residents were suppressed. Jeju was also used to exile those people who had displeased the King of the time. Jeju mandarins where considered a royal fruit as they where all gifted seasonally to the royal family. It wasn’t until the end of the Joseon dynasty that Jeju mandarins became more readily available for your everyday men and women.
In 1911 a French Catholic missionary, Father Taque, imported 15 mandarin trees from Japan. He planted them in an orchard belonging to the local Catholic mission, and one of those trees is still alive and bearing fruit.
The modern history of the mandarin industry in Jeju began from those trees in the missionary orchard, planted less than a century ago.
As late as the early 1960s, the mandarin plantations occupied less than 1 percent of Jeju's arable area. Twenty years later, in the 1980s, some 30 percent of all arable land was used to grow these fruits. Mandarins had become the mainstay of Jeju commercial agriculture.
As of 2003, the mandarins generated nearly half of all income in the island's agriculture sphere, so it comes as no surprise that the entire island is sometimes called "Mandarin Paradise.'' Indeed, mandarin orchards are everywhere on the island.
Now a days mandarins are the most common fruit in Korea next to apples.
Should you visit Jeju, I can recommend the Jeju Olle Walk, 425km of walks around the perimeter of Jeju, around the city of Seogwipo you will pass many Mandarin Farms, and you can buy directly from the farmer. Maybe like me they will give you some extra ones for free.
Jeju Olle Walk: https://www.jejuolle.org/trail/eng/default.asp