I heard about this fruit on a Good Food podcast recently, and then I happened to stumble across one at Whole Foods after work the other day (I was actually only looking for pie, so it was a pleasant surprise).
There is a really fascinating article here about the fruit, but here’s a quick summary: Dekopon is a tangerine variety from Japan that has been incredibly popular there since the early 90s I think. It was so popular it could cost up to $10 per fruit. However, it was illegal to import because of possible exotic diseases, etc. But, someone did managed to smuggle in some branches to graft new trees from.
After that, there’s a lot of secret groves and corporate espionage sounding stuff. The article I linked to even contains the quote “I’m not happy that you found out about the Dekopon … Some heavy hitters I work with are interested in it”. And, if that doesn’t sound like Chinatown but with fruit instead of water to you, you’re totally nuts.
Finally, the fruit is available here in California this year (sold under the name Sumo Tangerine rather than Dekopon). So, after hearing all that craziness on the radio, I really had no choice but to buy one when I happened across it. And, it was delicious. It tastes like one of the best mandarin oranges you’ve ever had, but it’s the size of a navel orange. It’s seedless, really sweet, and really juicy. I have to say though that I also bought some Murcott tangerines that I might have even liked a little bit more. All in all, the citrus varieties available this time of year in Southern California are amazing, and you should definitely look into it.