Sumo Oranges Are Easy to Peel and Sweeter Than Clementines

The easy-to-peel, delicious, and giant Sumo orange makes a perfect healthy snack.

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. This giant variety of oranges is at peak season between January and April, so here's everything there is to know about Sumo Citrus so that you can feel confident buying some on your next trip to the store.

Sumo oranges in a wood bowl

BHG/Ana Cadena

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 navel oranges, Meyer lemons, and more.

What Do Sumo Citrus 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, with easily separated segments, no seeds, and skin that peels away cleanly and easily. It's also quite big for a mandarin: about the size of a navel orange.

Related: 4 Winter Fruits That Pair Perfectly with Your Seasonal Menu

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 oranges in a wooden bowl

BHG/Ana Cadena

How to Pick Sumo Citrus

If the Sumo orange has a slight give with a gentle squeeze, it's ready to peel and enjoy. Sumo Citrus naturally has bumpy skin and can develop slight blemishes such as discoloration, scarring, or spotting. These are all just cosmetic and do not impact the flavor.

Sumo Citrus Nutrition

You can enjoy an entire Sumo Citrus to get more than your day's worth of vitamin C at a whopping 163 percent. You'll also score the bonus of a bit of potassium (10 percent), iron (3 percent), calcium (3 percent), and vitamin D (1 percent). Here are the nutrition facts per serving (one Sumo Citrus): 147 cal., 0 g fat, 0 g chol., 35 g carb., 3 g fiber, 29 g sugars, 3 g protein.

sumo oranges growing on tree
Sumo Citrus was first imported from Japan to the U.S. in 1998 but wasn't sold to the public until 2011 after California farmers were able to maintain the fruit's high growing standards. Courtesy of Sumo Citrus

Sumo Citrus in the U.S.

Sumo Citrus started appearing in the U.S. around 2011 (that's right, it's not new, just booming right now), courtesy of a California citrus company called Suntreat. Amidst all the hype, Suntreat appropriately re-branded to officially own the Sumo Citrus name. It can now be found in grocery stores all over the country—including Target and Meijer—but it's not 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!

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