The aptly named Sumo citrus is large and round with a distinctive top-knot. Its bumpy, wrinkly skin peels like a dream, sometimes pulling away in a single piece, and the flesh underneath is unbelievably sweet, refreshingly tart, and seedless. In its native Japan, where it is known as the Dekopon, the Sumo has become so highly prized that a single fruit can sell for ten dollars.
Lucky for us, Sumos cost much less here in the United States, but they can be tricky to find. They've been grown in California by a consortium of farmers in the Central Valley for only three years. When the farmers first imported the budwood -- branches for grafting new trees -- from Japan, it had to be legally quarantined for several years until it was cleansed of any diseases that might threaten other citrus crops. During this time, every farmer, scientist, and importer involved in the operation kept the Sumo's arrival shrouded in secrecy.
If you've never tried a Sumo, now is your chance. Their brief season begins in February and lasts through May, though the limited supply generally runs out by the end of March. Look for Sumos at the Wednesday Farmers' Market in Santa Monica, at Asian markets around Los Angeles, and at specialty grocers. Last I checked, Whole Foods is currently selling Sumos for $3.99 per pound.
I've heard the word homely used to describe the Sumo's unusual looks, but I think they're cute. Just wait till you taste one.
Chopped Greens and Sumo Citrus Salad with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Sumo citrus has such a thin layer of pith that you don't need to worry about trimming it. Simply peel the sumo, cut it into bite-sized pieces, and add them to the chopped greens. I love the combination of bitter radicchio and sweet citrus, but you could certainly use your favorite green. Dandelion would likely work well, as would kale and arugula.
Serves 4 as a first course
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small bunch spinach (about 3 ounces), stems removed
½ small radicchio (about 4 ounces)
3 large endives (about 7 ounces)
1 Sumo citrus, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 ounces soft goat cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Set a small skillet over medium heat. Add the pumpkin seeds, 1 tablespoon olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Toast the seeds, stirring often, until they are golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes. Remove skillet from the heat and let the seeds cool.
Slice the spinach, radicchio, and endives crosswise into thin ribbons and place them in a large bowl. Add the Sumo pieces, lemon juice, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, and lots of pepper. Using your hands or two large spoons, toss well to combine. Taste for seasoning and add another pinch of salt or drizzle of olive oil, if needed.
To serve, crumble the goat cheese over the salad and sprinkle the toasted pumpkin seeds on top.