There are only two more months to go until the next Sumo Citrus season starts, but preparing for harvest is one of the most important times for growers. So, what’s happening with the world’s most anticipated fruit right now?
Every year, growers in California have very specific farming practices leading up to a successful harvest, and these help ensure your favorite fruit will have that enormously delicious taste and iconic Top KnotTM you wait for all year long.
But fall weather can be a challenge — especially if California’s Central Valley experiences frost! If temperatures even hint at dropping into the frost range, explains seasoned Sumo Citrus grower Kellie Neufeld, the farmers and their crews will be out in the fields overnight. They keep a close eye on temperatures, then do whatever they can to keep the fruit warm and out of danger.
The combination of wind machines and irrigation can actually insulate the fruit, to ensure they stay cozy and continue to ripen into the juicy, no-mess fruit you crave all year. Technically speaking, Neufeld says, this is called an inversion layer. It can raise the temperature in the fields by about three degrees, which is generally enough to prevent freezing. Autumn rain poses another threat to the ripening fruit as harvest approaches. Too much rain can spoil the fruit and impact yields! (Not to worry: The growers know how to maintain the quality so that you never experience anything less than the best when you sink your teeth into a Sumo Citrus.)
On the bright side, the same weather that can overwhelm Sumo Citrus is also what leads to a milestone in the growing season: color break.
This is when the fruit — large but still dark green — starts to turn orange. “It happens fairly quickly,” says Neufeld. “As soon as the weather cools down, we see the orange color come. Then we come back a few days later and the fruit is half orange.”
Soon they turn fully orange, meaning they’re mere weeks away from harvest.
By January, the fruit should be ripe and ready to pick by hand. After spending all year watching the fruit, says grower Kelly Smith, harvest day arrives — and what an exciting day it is.
There’s nothing more exciting than watching a year of hard work come to fruition, says Smith. “We see the size, we’re tasting the fruit — we have success,” she says.
Look for Sumo Citrus in stores this January!