Kitchn Love Letters

I Wait All Year for This $6 Trader Joe’s Produce Find

published Jan 10, 2024
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trader joes bag with goods on kitchen counter
Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaeffer; Prop Styling; Tom Hoerup

The winter months get a bad rap when it comes to produce, at least in the northeast where I live. Sure, we may have passed fall’s fancy figs and the latest trendy apple variety, and you won’t find a juicy peach or plump cherry, but it’s not all humble potatoes and mighty squashes from January to April. 

There’s one particular diamond in the rough(age) that rewards us with its sunshine glow and incredible sweetness during the dreariest months of the year: Sumo Citrus. Don’t call it an orange, and it’s certainly no clementine. This Japanese-bred fruit is one-of-a-kind, and it’s finally on store shelves for 2024 — including Trader Joe’s. 

Credit: Lizzy Briskin

What’s So Great About Sumo Citrus?

Grocery stores in the United States have been stocking Sumo Citrus since 2011, and if you haven’t tried one yet, now’s your chance. The first Sumos were developed in the 1970s by a Japanese farmer who sought to create a fruit with the easy peeling and juicy segments of smaller citrus varieties with the size of navel oranges. Eventually, the delicate crop came to California, and now farmers in the San Joaquin Valley take painstaking measures to raise, harvest, and distribute this king of citrus fruit throughout the country. 

Sumo Citrus are always ripened on the tree, which maximizes flavor, and they’re harvested in small quantities (not the massive bins of typical commercial farming). The fruits are treated delicately from harvest to grocery store to avoid bruising. 

When you have one in your hand, before you even taste a single section, the Sumo difference is evident. The fruits are larger and heavier than your typical mandarin. (It’s always a good sign when fruit is heavier than you expect by its size, as weight indicates that it’s ripe and full of flavorful, sweet juice.) 

If you hate digging your fingernails into the stubborn pith and peel of a standard orange, you’ll appreciate how easily the thick, fragrant skin falls right off of a Sumo. And while a loose-fitting peel can sometimes indicate an old or dried-out fruit, that’s not the case here. 

Behind the peel is a golden orb of citrus segments that look familiar, but the flavor is on another level. Sumo Citrus are bursting with an explosion of sweet juice tinged by just the right amount of tartness — and without a seed in sight! This might be the neatest, most enjoyable fruit I’ve tried, and it’s worth the wait each year.  

Credit: Lizzy Briskin

What’s the Best Way to Eat Sumo Citrus?

A fruit this flavorful needs no dressing up. Plus it comes with its own biodegradable packaging, so toss one in a lunch box or purse for a mid-morning or after-lunch pick-me-up, or serve delicate slices for a perfectly sweet one-ingredient dessert. 

Find it in stores: Sumo Citrus, $5.99 for 2 pounds at Trader Joe’s 

What seasonal finds are you buying at Trader Joe’s right now? Tell us in the comments below.