Dekopon Invades OC

Mitsuwa Costa Mesa had 'em
Mitsuwa Costa Mesa had 'em

Is it an anime-monster playing card? No, it's a Japanese mandarin-orange hybrid, and it's available now in Orange County markets.

Trumpeted by fruit expert David Karp in a recent Los Angeles Times as the most delicious of the 1,000 varieties of citrus he's tasted, they were found over the weekend at Mitsuwa Marketplace in Costa Mesa, next to Karp's Times story. I had to try them for myself. At $1.99 each, or $12.99 for a case of eight, they are pricey little buggers. But are they worth it?

Dekopon vs. Mineola
Dekopon vs. Mineola
Deko is slang for "bump," and "pon" is short for ponkan, a popular tangerine variety. Like a zit-faced tangerine with oddly colored green-orange skin and a prominent bump on the stem end of the fruit, it's not the prettiest. But Karp is right: It's damn tasty and worth a try while you can get some.

The lightly pithed thin skin peels easily, making the fruit easy to eat. Dekopon is larger than little Satsumas mandarins, but not quite as large as a navel orange. The California grower brands these under the more easily pronounceable name Sumo, should you want to ask at a non-Japanese market.

If you're a fan of orange juice with pulp, this fruit is all about that pulp. While not as juicy as a navel orange, each little vesicle is firm and pops as you bite into it, yielding a sweet, noticeably un-tart mandarin-orange flavor. It's almost as sweet as those mandarin segments canned in light syrup, but with a fresh honey perfume that canning can't retain.

Following are the places I confirmed you can purchase them, along with prices:

Mitsuwa Marketplace, 665 Paularino Ave., Costa Mesa, (714) 557-6699. $1.99 each or 12.99 per case of eight.
Whole Foods Market, locations in Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Tustin (on Jamboree) and Laguna Beach.
$2.99 per pound.
Freshia Market, locations in Tustin and Garden Grove. $12.99 per case.

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