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The bright color, sweet juice and easy-peeling nature of clementines have made the citrus variety a favorite of fruit eaters, especially during winter months.

A type of mandarin orange, closely related to the tangerine, clementines are distinguished by their lack of seeds. A few clementines may still be found with seeds, but they're rare.

Clementines available in supermarkets this time of year often hail from Spain. In 2009, about 300,000 tons of Spanish clementines were shipped to the United States, but California growers are expanding their orchards to seek a larger share of the market.

Be cool: Refrigerate your clementines after you get them home. They'll go bad faster on the counter.

Orphanage-born?: Tradition ascribes discovery of the clementine to a 19th century French monk grafting citrus varieties at an Algerian orphanage. His name? Clement Rodier.

Here, we combine clementine segments with crunchy shaved fennel bulb, green apple matchsticks and mixed greens with simple lemony dressing for a vivacious winter salad. Grapefruit or orange segments would work as well. Top it with shavings of salty hard cheese for another dimension of flavor.

>Clementine-Fennel Salad

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon honey

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

1 fennel bulb

1 Granny Smith or Fuji apple

6 cups mixed salad greens

4 clementines

Shaved cotija, Parmigiano-Reggiano or aged Beemster cheese (optional)

In a medium bowl, whisk together lemon juice and honey. Then drizzle oil into mixture in a thin stream as you whisk constantly. (Or whir all three ingredients in a blender, or shake them in a jar with a tight lid.) Season to taste with salt and pepper to make dressing.

Trim fennel bulb, cut in half and remove core. Slice as thinly as possible.

Peel clementines and remove white pith. Cut sections in half.

Core apple and cut into matchsticks.

In a large bowl, gently toss fennel, clementines and apple pieces. Add greens, and dressing to taste, then toss again.

Portion onto plates. Top with cheese, if using, shaved with vegetable peeler or shredded with grater. Serve immediately.

e-mail: agalarneau@buffnews.com