One slice went in the mouth, and fireworks went off my head.
Wow, what was THAT? “Sumo mandarin,” he said, as he pointed to a bin full of these big, juicy, sweet, and seedless oranges. Earlier I had actually passed that aisle, saw those large oranges, touched them, saw their name, but thought that with the rind feeling much looser to the touch, they might not be good.
Au contraire, that was the very point the original growers of this citrus had wanted to do. Upon learning more about it, I learned that in the 70s, Japanese citrus grower attempted to marry the easy-to-peel Satsuma mandarins with those big, juicy, and sweet oranges from California. It took three decades to perfect the union, but in the end the grower came up with a satisfying product, a cross between an orange and a tangerine: Sumo Mandarin Orange. A person by the name Dwight Griffith came up with the moniker, with a nod to the country of this citrus origin and to the size of the fruit, which, compared to other oranges, resembles a sumo wrestler.
The fruit has the distinctive shape of “top-knot,” (of having a neck on its stem end,) with bumpy and bright orange but loose skin that peels easily. In Japan, it is known as Dekopon, and in Korea, Hallabong. In California, it is grown in the Central Valley, using the standard set by the Kumamoto farmers.
Do yourself a favor, when the next time you encounter this giant of a mandarin sitting amidst other oranges, tangerines, and mandarins in your supermarket produce section, go get some.
Photo Credit: Berkeley Bowl (berkeleybowl.com)