Sumo oranges: the Japanese citrus sweeping TikTok

Sumo oranges: the Japanese citrus sweeping TikTokSumo oranges: the Japanese citrus sweeping TikTok
Image: @elizabethanneventer; Midori/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Bryan Ke
March 28, 2022
Sumo oranges, a type of Japanese citrus, has gained widespread attention on social media after a video showing a woman enthusiastically persuading other grocery shoppers to try the sweet fruit went viral.
The video, originally shared by TikTok user @elizabethanneventer on March 17, shows a masked woman trying to convince other shoppers to buy Sumo oranges at a Trader Joe’s store on West 72nd Street in New York.
The woman can be seen in the video, set to the tune of Elton John’s “Hello Hello,” holding up a large orange while talking to other shoppers waiting in a checkout line. She appears to convince a few of them, as the video quickly cuts to clips of the oranges in several other customers’ baskets.
The video has been viewed over 7.4 million times and received more than 1.1 million likes and 6,600 comments as of this writing.
The Sumo orange was first cultivated in Japan at a government research facility in Nagasaki Prefecture in 1972.
Although its formal name is shiranui, after a town near Kumamoto on the Japanese island of Kyushu, the citrus became more widely known by its brand name Dekopon. Dekopon is reportedly a combination of the words “deko,” which translates to “bump,” and “pon,” as in pokan, a popular variety of mandarin commonly found in Asia.
Conflicting reports suggest the orange is either a hybrid of navel oranges, pomelos and mandarins or a hybrid between a ponkan tangerine and a kiyomi tangor.
The fruit also began popping up in other countries, including Brazil, China and South Korea, in around 1988. American growers purportedly tried to smuggle Shiranui seeds into the United States but were forced to cut the trees down by the government over fears of spreading harmful tree viruses.
Shiranui trees later arrived in the United States legally through Suntreat, which later became AC Brands. The company reportedly set up groves for the tree in California in secret, eventually unveiling the fruit to the public in 2011.
The company reportedly had to come up with its own branding for the fruit, leading them to name it Sumo Citrus, a reference to the top knot worn by Sumo wrestlers.
The Sumo orange is seedless and considered easy to peel, with some reports claiming the fruit is also “one of the sweetest and most flavorful varieties of citrus on the market.” It can now be found in several grocery chains in the U.S., including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Wegmans and Gristedes.
The Sumo orange is a seasonal fruit only available January through April, with another brief window in the fall.
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