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Dekopons are very large for mandarins— they can weight up to a pound each. They also have a characteristic large bump on one end, and thick, bumpy skin. Despite this, they are easy to peel like many mandarins, and have very thin membranes covering the firm, seedless flesh. The flavor is similar to an intense orange, but sweeter, since all dekopons must have citric acid levels below 1.0 percent. It is so sweet that is has been compared to eating candy. In fact, many people claim that the Dekopon is the most delicious citrus available today.
Dekopon oranges are available late winter into the spring months.
The Dekopon orange is actually a large variety of Japanese mandarin, not a true orange; it is a cross between a Kiyomi tangor and a Ponkan mandarin orange. In Japan, Dekopons are also known as shiranuhi, and hallabong in Korea, while in the United States they are usually referred to as Sumos. The name Dekopon comes from the Japanese word "deko," which means "bump," and "pon," which refers to its Ponkan madarin parent.
One medium-sized Dekopon has about 100 percent of the daily recommended value of Vitamin C. Dekopons are low calorie, and contain some potassium, dietary fiber, sugars, protein, and Vitamin A.
Since many people have raved about the flavor of Dekopons, the best way to use them is to enjoy them fresh. Also try them made into sauces or desserts, like other mandarin varieties. Dekopons bruise easily, so be careful when transporting and handling them.
Dekopons are one of the most popular citruses in Japan, where they go through an intensive cultivation process and cost up to $9 US. Commercial Dekopons are grown in greenhouses, harvested, and then cured for twenty to forty days so that the sugar level develops and the acid level drops. The arrival of Dekopons, or Sumos, in the United States was greeted with excitement and anticipation, first on the West Coast, and now throughout the country.
The Dekopon orange has an interesting history, although it is a relatively new fruit. The first Dekopon was developed in Japan in 1972 by a governmental research station. Although the research station did not think it was anything special, a farmer is said to have stolen a cutting from a tree and improved on it before introducing it to the market. At first the name Dekopon was trademarked, but an agreement was eventually reached to create standards by which growers must use to call their fruit by this name. Dekopons have proven so popular that they are now grown in countries outside Japan, including Brazil and South Korea. They first came to the United States in 1998 via a tree cutting, but weren't harvested until 2011.