Everything You Should Know About Sumo Oranges
Don’t let their odd shape dissuade you, Sumo citrus is sweet and delicious.
You may have noticed some strange, misshapen clementine-looking citrus at your local market lately, labeled as “Sumo citrus.” But you may not have tried them yet; clementines, after all, are cheaper, and you already know they’re good. Here’s everything you could want to know about Sumo oranges so you can feel confident buying some on your next trip.
What Is Sumo Citrus?
The Sumo is the brand name of what’s known elsewhere as the dekopon. It’s a medium-sized, bright orange citrus fruit, most easily distinguished by the tell-tale bump on the top. (The name likely comes from the topknot hairstyle worn by sumo wrestlers.) The dekopon dates back to 1972 in Japan.
All the wonderful varieties of citrus are crossbreeds of three base fruits: the pomelo, the mandarin, and the citron. From the pomelo we get bitterness (as in the grapefruit); from the mandarin we get sweetness, and from the citron, acidity (also bitterness again). We breed the crossbreeds with crossbreeds, over and over again, and eventually end up with citrus varieties like satsumas, ruby red grapefruits, cara cara oranges, meyer lemons, and more.
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The dekopon, or Sumo, is a cross between a honey orange and a fruit that itself is a cross between a sweet orange and a mandarin. The Sumo is bred for sweetness, sweetness, sweetness. Sumos are even sweeter than clementines. Thankfully, Sumo oranges were also bred to be easy to eat: easily separated segments, no seeds, skin that peels away cleanly and easily. It’s also quite big, for a mandarin—about the size of a navel orange.
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Nobody quite knows how the topknot got there; that kind of thing just sort of happens when you breed and crossbreed citrus fruits. The Sumo oranges took upwards of 30 years to breed, and the trees are slow to mature, which is why this sweet citrus is often more expensive. In Japan, where it’s from, it’s often given as gifts.
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Sumo Citrus In the U.S.
Sumo oranges started appearing in the U.S. around 2012 (that’s right, it’s not new, just booming right now), courtesy of a California citrus company called Suntreat. Suntreat re-branded the dekopon as the Sumo, and started selling it all around the country. It can now be found all over, but it still isn’t exactly cheap. You can expect to pay about $3 a pound for Sumos, which is a lot more than clementines or navels, but roughly on par with other specialty citrus, like blood oranges or key limes. Give ‘em a try!