What the Heck Are Sumo Oranges, and Why Are They So Popular?

If you've been hearing about Sumo oranges a lot recently, you're not imagining it: Sumo-orange season is here. The delicious citrus fruit has gained serious popularity in the last few years — and if you haven't tried it yet, the time is now!

According to the company that produces Sumo oranges in the US, Sumo Citrus, this massive, vibrant fruit is only available from January through April every year, so you'll want to visit your local grocer sooner rather than later. But what exactly is a Sumo orange, and what makes them so special?

What Is a Sumo Orange?

According to Sumo Citrus, the fruit was originally cultivated in the 1970s in Japan. And according to The New York Times, the Sumo orange (or the Dekopon, as it's called in Japan) took 30 years to develop. It's a cross of two beloved fruits: the easy-to-peel Japanese mandarin and the juicy and sweet California orange. This hybrid-citrus favorite has become so popular and prized that in countries like Japan and Korea, it's often given to friends and family members as gifts.

According to Sumo Citrus, "seedlings were first imported into the US in 1998, but because the Sumo Citrus is one of the most challenging varieties to grow, it wasn't until 2011 that they became available to the public."

What Makes Sumo Oranges So Special?

All of the above! Not to mention, the sweet, juicy, easy-to-peel, seedless oranges are in season for a pretty short amount of time. More specifically, they're only available from January through April, making their window of purchase just a few months long.

Another attractive quality about Sumo oranges? According to MyFitnessPal, a large Sumo orange has around 160 percent of your daily intake of vitamin C, making it a great fruit to have on your plate, especially during cold and flu season.

Sumo oranges are available at most big-name grocery stores, such as Target, Wegmans, Publix, and more. (Sumo Citrus has a locator on its site that will help you track your closest orange.) Try making them into popsicles or including them in an açai-bowl recipe to mix things up.

Worth noting: the unique hybrid fruit tends to more expensive than your typical orange (Amazon has them listed at $4/lb), as it can take years for these trees to grow. In fact, it takes four years before a Sumo Citrus tree produces any fruit. So be sure to account for that cost in your grocery budget!

— Additional reporting by Alexis Jones