Introducing Sumo Citrus — Butt Ugly and Drop Dead Delicious

by Dorothy Reinhold on March 7, 2013

Print This Post Print This Post Sumo Citrus on Shockingly Delicious

Well, maybe “butt-ugly” is a little harsh, but you have to admit this citrus is cosmetically challenged.

Ah, but what flavor!

“A bad Sumo is equal to what a good naval orange tastes like,” says Seth Wollenman, the brand manager for this new fruit. In other words, the Sumo’s worst day is the naval orange’s best day.

And the Sumo’s best day? Sublime.

Sumo Citrus in hand on Shockingly DeliciousA little lumpy, a little bumpy, a little like an orange-colored Sharpei, if that dog were shaped like a blob, the Sumo Citrus  is the Volkswagen Bug of the produce world – so ugly it’s cute!

It’s the biggest mandarin you’ve ever seen, probably the sweetest, too, and comes with its own little topknot handle.

Sumo Citrus pair on Shockingly DeliciousLoose skin that makes it easy-peel, seedless, endlessly sweet with melt-in-your-mouth segments, with a unique aroma – all characteristics of a winning fruit – this citrus has been #1 in Japan, but is brand new to the U.S.

It’s called Dekopon in Japan, where it originated in the 1970s; its parents were a tangor (cross of orange and Satsuma mandarin) and a ponkan (large mandarin). Although it is homely, it was prized for its magnificent flavor – sweet yet balanced by a nice acidity – and became not only the favorite, but the most expensive citrus, fetching $8-$10 a pop.

Sumo Citrus with sticker on Shockingly DeliciousFast forward to the 1990s, when a citrus grower in California imported some budwood – branches for grafting new trees – and put them in official quarantine, which is required to protect U.S. growers from pests and diseases that might be introduced from plants that come in from other countries and might devastate an entire industry.

Fast forward a few more years, and the budwood was finally out of quarantine, acquired by Suntreat Packing & Shipping Co. of Lindsay,Calif., 50 miles outside of Fresno, and planted on farms in the Central Valley.

Sumo Citrus groves on Shockingly DeliciousThe climate here is ideal for it, and in 2007 a few growers were quietly given plants to try. The next year, there was a major planting, and the first crop emerged in 2011. Last year, Melissa’s Produce distributed the crop to what is called “food service” – restaurants and other food venues such as sports arenas. This year the crop doubled in size, so it is the first season the fruit will go national and be more widely available to consumers such as you and me.

SUMO CITRUS consumer cartonThey’re in season rightthisminute, through March, so grab your keys and head to the store. If you don’t see them in your produce department, ask your produce guy to get you some. You might find them sold loose, either by the piece or by the pound (probably $3-$4 per pound), or in a consumer carton like this ($15-$20). You can find them at Whole Foods, Gelson’s, Bristol Farms, or consult this list of stores in Calif. and outside Calif.

They are absolutely, positively worth the effort.

Group shot of bloggers on Shockingly DeliciousSuntreat was kind enough to host a small pack of food writers on a recent tour of their Sumo fields. As we tromped the rows, we learned that in addition to its looks, it is different than other citrus because the trees must be grown, pruned, thinned and treated differently. Trees are grown to be shorter than other citrus…

Sumo Citrus tree on Shockingly Delicious…are thinned and pruned like a peach tree to allow light into the interior of the greenery (this sweetens the fruit)…

Sumo Citrus picking in the Central Valley on Shockingly Delicious…the rind is so delicate that the fruit must be clipped off the tree by hand and put into small totes, not the huge 900-pound bins that other citrus fruits are piled into…

…and that it must be stored or  “cured” after harvest to harden the rind up enough for shipping and to lower acidity and increase sweetness.

Sweetness? Wanna talk about natural sugars? Measured by a refractometer, the minimum brix (measure of natural sugars) for a Sumo is 14, with 16-18 being the highest. For comparison, a brix of 12 for a naval orange is considered high, and very sweet.

Al Imbimbo of Suntreat Packing & Shipping on Shockingly Delicious“In the past 10 years, people are less concerned about what something looks like, and are more concerned about what it tastes like.” –Al Imbimbo, VP sales, Suntreat.

Good thing for cosmetically challenged Sumo.

Its time has come!

Thanks for Melissa’s Produce for arranging this trip and to Suntreat Packing & Shipping for kindly touring us through their fields.

Sumo Citrus field panorama on Shockingly Delicious


{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Elaine Tenny June 22, 2018 at 12:58 am

I would like to know how to order these


Dorothy Reinhold June 22, 2018 at 1:58 pm

Please call Melissa’s Produce at 1-800-588-0151 and ask them about ordering. I believe Sumo are not in season at this moment (June 2018), but they can tell you for sure.


David Shonk November 30, 2017 at 7:11 pm

I tasted one and want to know how I can get on their mailing list for a case to be delivered to my house in Ohio and when they come into season.

Thank you


Dorothy Reinhold December 1, 2017 at 5:45 am

You can contact Melissa’s Produce at 800 588-0151 or email them at and they can make your dream come true!


Kugathasan August 7, 2015 at 2:59 pm

Where in Australia can I buy the Mandarin Sumo Loose fruit plant?


Dorothy Reinhold August 7, 2015 at 7:15 pm

I truly don’t know. It is a highly-prized plant/tree, and was especially developed under secretive conditions for a number of years. Why don’t you call the Melissa’s Produce Hotline at 800-588-0151 and ask them. They may be able to guide you.


Ken December 6, 2015 at 8:30 pm

Hi Kugathasan,you can buy these in Coles supermarket when they are in Season,i have cheers Ken


jeanne February 20, 2015 at 6:12 pm

Found these in myrtle beach,s.c. at krogers


Dorothy Reinhold February 21, 2015 at 4:42 pm

Great, and lucky! Get some and enjoy!


Joel January 25, 2015 at 1:24 pm

When and Were will I be able to buy Sumos in south Florida?


Dorothy Reinhold January 25, 2015 at 5:27 pm

Make friends with your produce manager at your favorite grocery store and ask him when he can get them for you. Produce managers want to keep the customers happy. The Sumo season is approaching!


Mr. G January 24, 2015 at 6:10 pm

I live in Florida … So this is a tough one. But I have to admit, Somo Mandarin is an amazing and out of this world orange.


Dorothy Reinhold January 24, 2015 at 10:15 pm

Mr. G,
Yes, we are certainly spoiled here in So Calif. with all of our citrus varieties, but Sumo…they are really something else!


Vegan Woman April 1, 2014 at 12:11 pm

They are unbelievable good! I have been enjoying them for the last few weeks! Great post!


Dorothy Reinhold April 1, 2014 at 1:29 pm

Thanks Vegan Woman! UNBELIEVABLE is a great word to describe their flavor!


herry March 20, 2014 at 6:29 am

I’m speechless on this sumo. its unbelievable good


Dorothy Reinhold March 20, 2014 at 12:24 pm

Isn’t it just THE BEST? So glad you like them!


Patricia and Maddie Chiaravolloti March 18, 2014 at 12:23 pm

We just tasted our first Sumo fruit. I am a recipient of a “Fruit of the Month” Club sent to me by my friend. It is from Harry and David. We want to know where we can get these in New Jersey. They are awesome!
Thank you.


Dorothy Reinhold March 18, 2014 at 8:44 pm

Patricia and Maddie,
They ARE awesome, aren’t they? One of the most unique looking and sweet citrus, ever! You may contact Melissa’s Produce at and ask them for help in locating a store near you where Sumos might be sold. They oughta know. Good luck!


Eman Yono March 9, 2013 at 12:17 pm

do you know from where i can buy a tree?, i would love to grow it in my backyard. thank you


Dorothy March 9, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Eman Yono,
I don’t, offhand. I would start with a nursery in whatever area you live, and especially if there is a nursery that specializes in specialty fruit. It has been such a closely held secret for so long, that it might not be available to the public yet. Let me know if you find a tree! I would buy one, too!


kirsten@FarmFreshFeasts March 9, 2013 at 8:16 am

Butt ugly is about right! I look forward to trying some cured Sumos.

Thanks, Dorothy!


Kim March 8, 2013 at 6:42 pm

Thanks for the virtual tour, Dorothy! I personally think these Sumos are adorable. But then again, I like shar-peis. 🙂



Holly March 8, 2013 at 6:17 pm

Thanks for the citrus lesson of Sumo and what a treat to walk among those beautiful trees. I’ll look for these at Whole Foods; thanks to your post I won’t be scared to bring some of these home!


Nancy Rose Eisman March 8, 2013 at 11:46 am

Thanks so much for taking us all on a virtual trek through those beautiful citrus groves. Yes, the Sumos are unbelievably delicious!


Lizthechef March 8, 2013 at 11:39 am

Have got to find some of these and try!


kai March 17, 2015 at 2:54 pm

They sell them at whole foods in Dr Phillips orlando, fl and they are now 3.99 per pound. I bought 4 and spent $10.77… Definitely a luxury purchase for me.


Dorothy Reinhold March 18, 2015 at 4:02 am

Absolutely! They are so good, I splurge on a couple every week when they are in season, but you’re right, they can be $3 to $4 each (depending on size) here in So Calif.


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