Fans of “Seinfeld” might remember the episode where Kramer goes absolutely bonkers over the arrival of the limited Mackinaw peaches, which are only available for two weeks out of the whole year. “It’s like having a circus in my mouth!” he exclaims with crazed enthusiasm. Well, folks, here in California, there’s just as much hubbub going around for a limited seasonal fruit, but it isn’t the peach: It’s the Dekopon citrus.
A Japanese hybrid of the orange and mandarin born in the late ‘70s, the Dekopon citrus is considered to be the most flavorful citrus in the world. And it’s available for a limited season right now.
The Dekopon doesn’t look like more than a funky, bulbous orange—perhaps one you would pass over at the store in favor of more colorful, round, or otherwise attractive citruses. But underneath the fruit’s characteristic bumpy skin and knobby head on top, there lies an incredibly delicious flesh, perhaps more delectable than the rest.
Dekopon may not be the sweetest citrus, per se, but it is absolutely the most “citrusy.” It’s a melody of bright, crisp flavor and mild floral notes. The fruit has a thick peel which comes off with impossible ease—there is virtually no pith left behind on the fruit. And it’s seedless (although you may occasionally find a single straggler seed amid one large fruit), so you get nothing but pure juicy pulp when you bite in. It’s the only citrus you can peel and eat in one sitting without requiring a napkin, bib and bottle of hand sanitizer.
Look for the Dekopon at local Asian markets and produce shops, where it is commonly labeled as the “Sumo tangerine.” It’s also available right now at most California Whole Foods locations at a ballpark price of $2.99/pound. The fruits are large—near grapefruit size—but are surprisingly not that heavy. I bought three large Dekopons this week, and the damage in total was just shy of four dollars. Really not that bad for a seasonal treat that’s in such high demand right now.
Is the hype worth it? If you are a lover of citrus fruits, then absolutely. It may not be scientifically proven to be the single best citrus in the world, but it’s a top contender. And for its no-nonsense, come-right-off peel and virtual lack of seeds, it’s probably the most user-friendly citrus in the world. Certainly recommended to try ‘em while you can.
For a current listing of where to find the Dekopon citrus this season, check out the store listing from the Los Angeles Times here. (It’s also rumored to be making appearances in March at various L.A. farmers markets—let us know if you find it!)
And let us know if eating the Dekopon fruit is like having a circus in your mouth, too!
image: Kimberley Stakal