Sumo Citrus. Have you heard of it? I hadn’t until I walked into Whole Foods a couple of weeks ago and was greeted with a beautiful display of these uniquely-shaped and brightly-colored fruit with a thick, dimpled peel and distinctive “top knot”. These large mandarin oranges are seedless, easy to peel, and very sweet. They’re juicy, but not so much that the juice drips down your arm when you peel them like some oranges can do.
Its history started in the ’70s, when citrus growers in Japan sought to develop a fruit that is the combination of a Japanese Satsuma tangerine and a California orange. It took over 30 years, but they were ultimately successful and dekopon, as sumo citrus is called in Japan, has become one of its most prized fruit, selling for up to $8 each. Luckily for us here in the US, they are now being commercially grown in family farms in the Central Valley of California. At Whole Foods and other gourmet markets, they are priced from $2.99 to $3.99 per pound. I suspect that as they become more widely grown, their price should go down.
I was hooked on these sumos after one bite. I knew right away I wanted to serve them as a dessert but in a simple way that wouldn’t cover up their beautiful fresh flavor. The garnishes, consisting of orange liqueur-flavored crème fraîche, pistachios and mint did the trick, complementing the fruit, but letting its honey-like sweetness shine through.
According to the sumo citrus website, the season for this fruit will eventually be from February through May but will last only through March this year. Demand is growing and with only a couple weeks left supplies are limited, so if you see them at your market, grab some of these sumos because they really are enormously good to eat!
Sumo Citrus with Crème Fraîche, Pistachios, and Mint
Yields 4 servings
3 sumo citrus, sliced
1 blood orange, sliced
2 ounces crème fraîche
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur (optional)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons pistachios, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon mint, chiffonade
Arrange citrus slices on a serving platter. Chill in the refrigerator until service time. To assemble, mix the crème fraîche and orange liqueur and spoon over the citrus slices. Sprinkle the brown sugar, pistachios, and mint all over. Best served cold.
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