Winter might not seem like a time for fresh produce, but it’s prime season for citrus. (It’s why orange juice usually tastes much sweeter in February than it does in August.) Lately, I’ve become enamored with a citrus fruit that’s available for only a few months each year: Sumo citrus.
Next time you’re at the grocery store, look for the orange with the knobby top. This is Sumo citrus, essentially a giant mandarin, hence the name. They’re easy to peel and seedless—think of this citrus as a triple clementine. (As of mid-February, there’s roughly eight weeks left in the season.)
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This fruit’s journey into American grocery stores wasn’t an easy one. According to the Sumo citrus website, it was cultivated in Japan in the 1970s and was named the dekopon. Seedlings were sent to the United States in 1998, but due to its finicky nature and easily bruised skin, farmers weren’t able to produce a fruit worthy to be sold until 2011.
Though farmers in California finally figured out the best way to grow them on U.S. soil, Sumo citrus is available only from January through April because of the particular conditions required for harvest.
One of my favorite things to eat at my desk are clementines. They’re convenient and good for me. But my main gripe? They’re too small, and I end up having to eat three before I feel satisfied. Alternatively, I eat one clementine and then switch to something less healthy (I’m looking at you, M&Ms).
The Sumo citrus, and its size, solves this problem. The signature top knot also makes the Sumo supereasy and superquick to peel. There’s time better spent than tearing little pieces off your navel oranges until your plate resembles a papier-mâché project.
But the best part of a Sumo citrus? Its sweetness. Every segment of a Sumo citrus is an orange wedge–sized clementine.
You’ll find Sumo citrus costing more than standard oranges or mandarins, but I believe they’re worth it. At my local supermarket in Boston, they cost about $3.99 a pound. I’m glad I stumbled upon them. It’s unfortunate that I only have until April to enjoy these giant fruits, so go get them before I buy them all.
Lead photo: bhofack2 / Getty Images