Even Hoda Kotb declared them as her "favorite fruit."

By Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD
February 10, 2021
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Credit: Getty Images

Each year for the past few years, right around January, a certain orange fruit comes into the spotlight. It's huge, has a bumpy texture with a big knot on top, and tastes sweeter than probably any other orange fruit you've encountered.

They're known as Sumo oranges, and they've got quite a cult following. TODAY host Hoda Kotb declared her love for the citrus fruit on Wednesday's airing of TODAY with Hoda & Jenna. "Every now and then there's a moment where the most delicious fruit becomes available and you have to get it in one tiny window and it's right now," Kotb said, as she handed the fruit to cohost Jenna Bush to try. "This is called the Sumo orange," adding that it has really thick skin and is easy to peel. "I just want you to try it," Hoda said. And it turned out, Jenna liked the fruit, too.

But it's not just TODAY hosts who are fans—Sumos are all over social media right now, with tons of people talking up the fruit. Just in case you're curious too (we sure were), here are the basics about this unique, nutritious treat, why you may just fall in love with Sumos too, and how to find them soon, before they're out of season.

Where do Sumo oranges come from?

While some people refer to the fruit as Sumo oranges, that's not actually correct, since they're not technically oranges. Sumo Citrus® is the actual trademarked brand name for this distinct treat, made from a hybrid of Navel, Mandarin, and Pomelo citrus fruits. Originally cultivated in Japan, Sumo seedlings were imported into the US in the late 1990s, according to the fruit's website. But because the fruit is challenging to grow, it wasn't made available to consumers until 2011. Now, farmers in California make Sumo oranges available to US customers.

But there's a catch: Because the growing season is long, and the fruit is carefully hand picked and hand packed, Sumos are only available between January and April. One note: because of the special growing needs and limited season, Sumo is also slightly more expensive than other common types of citrus.

What makes Sumo oranges unique?

First and foremost, the oranges are huge. One Sumo orange is bigger than a large handful, and weighs a little over eight ounces, compared to about five and half ounces per medium orange. The fruit's size and characteristic top knot, which is reminiscent of the hairstyle worn by sumo wrestlers, is how they got their name.

The natural hybrid, which is not genetically modified, offers a few other distinctive perks. The thick, bumpy, no-mess rind is easy to peel, there is much less bitter white pith, and the fruit is seedless and incredibly sweet. The delicious flavor of Sumo citrus is in part due to its high sugar to acidity ratio, which makes it taste sweeter than many of its citrus relatives.

What's the nutrition content of Sumo oranges?

According to the Sumo website, here's how the nutrition of a single Sumo orange breaks down:

  • Calories: 147
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Sodium: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 35 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams
  • Total sugars: 29 grams
  • Protein: 3 grams

That sugar number might seem like a bit much, but keep in mind those are naturally-occuring sugars—and Sumo oranges have so much because they're still much larger than a typical orange. If a full Sumo is a bit too big for one meal, you can share it, or stash the remaining sections in the fridge and eat within about a day.

One Sumo also packs 163% of the Daily Value for immune and skin-supporting vitamin C, and 10% for potassium. The latter nutrient supports heart function, muscle contractions, helps maintain muscle mass, and acts as a natural diuretic, to reduce blood pressure and counter fluid retention.

How can you enjoy Sumo oranges?

Sumos are wonderful as is, but the sections can be incorporated into a variety of recipes. Add them to overnight oats or a smoothie for breakfast, toss into a garden salad or stir fry, add to a gingery vinegar slaw, or incorporate into snacks and desserts.

You can also layer Sumo sections with yogurt and nuts, or pair with half an avocado or a scoop of nuts. Dipping Sumo sections into melted dark chocolate, or adding to chia pudding or coconut milk ice cream is another great option.

You'll find Sumos at just about every market (when they're available, that is). If you wind up with more than you can eat, peel and freeze to blend into smoothies, or thaw for use in recipes. A small freezer stash will also extend your personal Sumo season, so you can enjoy them for a few additional months.

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