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.)
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.