Sumo Citrus: “Enormously good to eat!”

A bright orange, extra-large variety, the Sumo citrus is super sweet, juicy, naturally seedless and easy to peel. Each Sumo has a distinctive top-knot and weighs about 10 ounces, making it the largest seedless mandarin available.

Family farmers in California’s Central Valley successfully harvested the United States’ first Sumo trees last year. The Sumo may be in only its second season here, but took 30 years to cultivate in Japan.

Keep reading to learn how it was developed, and how to choose the perfect Sumo.

In the 1970s, a Japanese citrus grower envisioned a citrus with the benefits of easy to peel Japanese Satsuma mandarins and big, sweet California navel oranges. He hybridized the varieties and developed best practices for growing what we now know as the Sumo citrus. For optimal flavor, Sumo trees must be hand-pruned and hand-thinned as the fruit is growing. The fruit is delicate, requiring it to be picked and packed individually by hand. Called the Dekopon citrus in Japan, the now-perfected Sumo sells for as much as $8-$10 (each!) overseas.

We are fortunate to now have the Sumo citrus in California during its short season in March. To pick a Sumo with optimum flavor, gently squeeze the fruit. If it gives a little, it’s ready to eat. Sumos are low in acid with very little albedo or rag (the white part of the interior that sometimes makes citrus bitter), and the membrane is so thin it essentially melts in your mouth. Quite possibly the perfect snack on its own, the Sumo is also great in salads and desserts.