With its large, bumpy size and a distinct top knot, Sumo Citrus® are relatively new to United States markets. Incredibly sweet and easy to peel, Sumo Citrus® are only in season for a limited time – though they’ll stick in your mind for months to come.
Developed around the 1970s in Japan, the Shiranui varietal became known by its branded name, Dekopon, and is prized overseas – often given as a gift. Suntreat Packing and Shipping Co. brought the varietal to the U.S. market as a California-grown varietal in 2011 under the brand name Sumo Citrus®. Since then, they’ve been working to expand the short harvesting season to meet growing demands.
“People say it’s like citrus they used to remember,” says Seth Wollenman, Sales and Brand Manager for Suntreat. “Not only the taste but the fragrance and texture; they’re juicy, easy to peel and seedless.”
While Seth has been working with Suntreat to develop Shiranui stateside since 2008, Seth’s family – of Wollenman Farms – grow Sumo Citrus®, along with ten other varietals. They’re one of close to 30 growers, many family-owned farms, working with Suntreat to bring Sumo Citrus® to Raley’s.
“They’re a cross between a large seeded mandarin and large seedless navel orange,” Seth says. “It’s about 75% mandarin, 25% orange. It has some satsuma parentage in it.”
The navel orange flavor comes through in a bright, refreshing way. Incredibly sweet, there’s a welcome acidity on the tail end – it’s a taste unlike any other citrus. Seth attributes the exceptional taste to the varietal but also the way it’s picked.
“We treat it like a tree ripe peach,” Seth says. “Most citrus is picked when mature but not tree ripe.” Seth explains that maturity is often determined by external color and meeting minimal flavor requirements, but Sumo Citrus® are treated like a backyard fruit tree, picked only when ripe.
“Every citrus on the market has the opportunity to taste amazing,” Seth says. “We’re really focusing on finding that peak flavor. It’s nice to know we’re doing what’s right for the flavor of the fruit.”
And, ultimately, what’s right for the enjoyment of the consumer.