Sumo Citrus Season Is Here and We're Already Stocking Up
The easy-to-peel delicious giant makes a perfect healthy snack.
You may have noticed some strange, misshapen clementine-looking citrus at your local market lately, labeled as “Sumo Citrus” or "Sumo Oranges." But you may not have tried them yet; clementines, after all, are cheaper, and you already know they’re good. These giant citrus are at peak season between January and March, so here’s everything there is to know about Sumo oranges so you can feel confident buying some on your next trip to the store.Listen to this story on your smart speaker!
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.
What Do Sumo Oranges Taste Like?
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 (which is perfect for your favorite citrus-infused desserts). 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.
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.
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 Suntreat. Amidst all the hype, Suntreat appropriately re-branded to officially own the Sumo Citrus name. It can now be in grocery stores all over the country, but it still isn’t exactly cheap. 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!