Monday, May 16, 2011




I'm talking about citrus fruits in all their Vitamin C-rich glory. Perhaps later there will be an addendum about why Japanese grapes suck, but for now please enjoy my candid reviews of ten citrus fruits you can find here.

#1. DEKOPON デコポン
Dekopon are the best goddamn fruit in the entire world. They look like smallish oranges and usually have a nipple-like protrusion on the top, and are the result of the engineered mating of kiyomi (mikan + orange) and ponkan ("Chinese honey orange," in fact a tangerine relative). Grown almost exclusively in Japan, dekopon are extremely sweet and seedless. Apparently dekopon were introduced to U.S. markets just this year under the name "sumo."

#2. MIKAN みかん
Possibly the most well-known of the J-citrus fruits, mikan are called "satsuma" or "seedless mandarin" in the West. They are sweet and delicate, easy to peel, and while not always seedless it is rare for a mikan to contain more than a couple. Mikan are by far the most popular Japanese domestic citrus fruit, accounting for more than half of the cultivation areas in the country.

#3. IYOKAN いよかん
The iyokan is garbage. The flesh is dry and bears little if any flavor, and it's certainly not sweet. I don't know why it's the second most widely produced citrus fruit in Japan; it's like a crappy grapefruit that wants to be an orange. Oh well, the more you know!

Grown mainly in Kumamoto and Ehime, amanatsu is a step above iyokan but just barely. It peels easily and doesn't make too much of a mess, but each fruit (marginally smaller than a grapefruit) contains ~30 seeds, which makes it a laborious process to eat fresh.

#5. YUZU ゆず
For whatever reason, yuzu skin and juice comprise an extremely popular flavoring agent, but the fruit is almost never eaten fresh. Salad dressing, dipping sauce for stewed meat, hard liquor, dessert sauces, vinegar, hot beverages...few winter foods escape the distinctive, zesty tartness of yuzu. I'm not a proponent but apparently a whole lot of Japanese people would disagree.

#6. JUICY FRUIT ジューシーフルーツ
I have no idea what a "juicy fruit" is called in English. I'd compare it to a large grapefruit with pale yellow flesh. The flavor is slightly sour but overall sweet. When ripe it peels very easily, and it definitely lives up to its name - have a hand towel or napkin handy to clean up the inevitable mess.

#7. BUNTAN 文旦
In English, buntan are "Chinese grapefruit" or "pomelo." In Japan, they are expensive gift fruit. They're big, pale yellow things with thick skin that requires a knife (or really sturdy stiletto nails) to peel. Once you get inside, you are rewarded with dryish flesh chock full of seeds. You've already worked so hard to get in there that you go through the effort to remove the seeds and convince yourself that the bitter tartness is luxurious.

#8. MINNEOLA ミンネオーラ
The minneola is a tangerine hybrid of Floridan descent but has made its way onto the shelves at supermarkets everywhere, replacing the winter staples mikan and dekopon. Like dekopon, minneola have a nub/nipple/bump, but they are thin-skinned and so juicy that it's rare for them to survive peeling without dripping everywhere. The juice is very sweet, but they fall apart too easily and leave you wishing you had a mikan or dekopon instead.

#9. SUN FRUIT/SUN QUEEN サンフルーツ/サンクイーン
Another popular import from Florida, these are referred to as "Seminole fruit" in English. They bear resemblance to Minneola but are much seedier and more expensive. It is an exercise in futility to sit there pulling 5 teeny tiny seeds out of each wedge of a messy little thing barely the size of a Clementine.

As you might expect. Usually California grown. The age old argument/local pride joke is that California oranges are for eatin' and Florida ones are for juicin'.

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