Today, we’re shining the spotlight on one of our favorite citrus varieties–the Sumo citrus! The good news is that they will be arriving a little earlier than expected this season and with more yield than last year. Sumos have earned a reputation among fruit enthusiasts as one of nature’s citrus masterpieces. If you’re unfamiliar with Sumos, you may be skeptical over the hype surrounding this strange, bumpy skinned variety. After all, it’s not everyday you encounter fruit with a big, lumpy Sumo wrestler-like topknot. However, after tasting just how delicious the Sumo is, you’ll know that it’s truly what’s on the inside that counts.
The story behind the Sumo citrus is a fascinating one and started off with an ingenious idea. Dating back to the 1970’s in Japan, a hardworking citrus grower wanted to create a citrus variety that would combine the best of both worlds in the easy-to-peel Japanese Satsuma Mandarin and the sweetness and juiciness of California oranges. It took thirty years but his patience paid off when the Sumo citrus had finally found its place as one of the most prized fruits one could possess in Japan and Korea. In 2011, this Mandarin-orange hybrid became first available in the United States and is now grown in California’s very own Central Valley.
What to look for: Sumo citrus are easy to identify by their bumpy rind and distinctive topknot. Although the fruit has a tough-looking exterior, the fruit is actually quite fragile and susceptible to damage if handled too roughly. If you look at the picture above, you’ll see that the Sumos are put into small tote boxes rather than giant bins that other fruits are packed in. Look for fruits that have a slight “give” when squeezed. That’s when you know it’s ready for eating.
Storage and prep: Sumo citrus should last for approximately two weeks if well refrigerated. When ready to eat, their top-knot and loose skin makes this fruit almost effortless to peel. Simply pull off the top knot and peeling the rest of the skin off should come relatively easy. Upon taking the skin off, you’ll notice that the fruit remains clean with no sticky juices running all over the place, keeping your hands dry. Compared to other orange varieties, Sumo citrus has an extremely thin white membrane sticking to the fruit, making it very easy to eat with no mess.
Uses and recipes: Sumo citrus are great for enjoying as a snack on-the-go because they’re easy to peel and relatively mess-free. You won’t find any sticky fingers here. Sumos are known to be very sweet and extremely high in natural sugars. However, they’re also low in acidity. Combined with their large size, this makes for some great recipes that you could use with the juice of the Sumos. Try using their juice in sauces and glazes for both meat dishes and desserts.
The future of the Sumo Citrus looks like a bright one. Foodies and fruit enthusiasts alike have been catching on to this citrus jewel and its popularity will only grow from here. If you chance upon any Sumos, grab some for yourself because their short season will go as quickly as they came.
Have you ever tried Sumo citrus before? What are your thoughts? What recipes would you like to try making with them?