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Freshie Faves: Supersized Mandarins

Of all the wonderful goodies in the store, from all over the world, Valerie Flores, one of our FRESH partners, has no trouble identifying her favorite: The Sumo mandarin.

You may have seen these giant citrus wonders this spring in our produce section. Although mandarins are typically tiny, the Sumo mandarin is huge – bigger than many oranges, and at least three times the size of most regular little mandarins.

But it’s also huge in flavor. The Sumo is super-sweet  and has more juice packed into each segment than any regular mandarin Valerie has ever eaten. Like the best mandarins, they’re seedless and easy to peel. Unlike some other types of citrus, Sumos are especially good super-cold, so Valerie keeps them in the fridge, so there’s always one ready when she needs a quick, sweet snack.

So where did the Sumos come from? The answer is a little complicated. They are a hybrid of a hybrid – a cross of several kinds of oranges and mandarins, developed by Japanese researchers. They were developed not just for their size, but to have a higher sugar content than the average citrus fruit. In Japan, they are called Dekopan, and when they became popular there in the 1990s, customers were willing to pay as much as $10 for a single Sumo, according to a 2011 article in the Los Angeles Times.

When Dekopans became available in the United States last year, marketing whizzes decided to give them a new, more approachable name. Sumo does seem perfect – both for the fruit’s huge size and for the little topknot of peel that appears at the fruit’s base

Sumos are seasonal – we’ll only have them for another few weeks. So get in and supersize your citrus soon.