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Daimasaki oranges are a medium to large varietal, averaging 9 to 10 centimeters in diameter, and have a round to oblate appearance with a prominent, raised protrusion on the stem end. The orange’s rind is thin and easy to peel, found in shades of bright orange, sometimes blushed with red hues. The rind is also covered in oil glands creating a bumpy, pebbled, and textured feel. Underneath the surface, there is a spongy and very thin, white pith loosely attached to dark orange flesh. The flesh is divided into 12 to 13 segments by membranes, giving the orange a slightly chewy consistency, and it is also seedless, aqueous, and soft with a succulent and tender mouthfeel. Daimasaki oranges release a bright aroma when peeled and should feel heavy for their size when ripe. The oranges contain high sugar content mixed with moderate acidity, contributing to a sweet, sugary, subtly tart, and tangy flavor.
Daimasaki oranges are available in the winter.
Daimasaki oranges, botanically classified as Citrus reticulata, are a rare Japanese variety belonging to the Rutaceae or citrus family. The large fruits were discovered growing as a sport of the famous dekopon orange in the Kagoshima Prefecture in the late 20th century and were selected as a new variety in 2006. Daimasaki oranges share similar characteristics to dekopon oranges, including their stem-end protrusion, large size, high sugar content, and easy to peel nature, but the sport appears in shades of darker orange, often blushed with red. Scientists considered naming the sport Red dekopon, Red shiranui, and Beni shiranui before Daimasaki was selected, and the sport is sometimes seen under these descriptors in markets. Daimasaki oranges are only produced in the Kagoshima Prefecture and are traditionally given as gifts to friends and family for celebratory occasions.
Daimasaki oranges are a good source of fiber to regulate the digestive tract, vitamin C to strengthen the immune system while reducing inflammation, and vitamin A to maintain healthy organ functioning. The oranges also provide potassium to balance fluid levels within the body, calcium to protect bones and teeth, and other nutrients, including magnesium, phosphorus, folate, copper, and zinc.
Daimasaki oranges have a sweet, subtly tart flavor well suited for fresh and cooked preparations. The oranges are traditionally eaten straight, out of hand, and are easily peeled and segmented to appreciate the fruit’s natural texture and flavor. Daimasaki oranges can also be segmented and tossed into green salads and fruit bowls, drizzled in chocolate as a healthy dessert, blended into smoothies, or chopped with aromatics as a salsa over seafood and grilled meats. In addition to consuming the flesh in raw preparations, Daimasaki oranges can be utilized for their juice and zest, adding sweet, refreshing notes to cakes, cookies, custard, fudge, and crème brulee. The juice can also be simmered into jams, jellies, and marmalades and spread over toast or layered as a filling in baked goods. Try using the oranges in fresh juices or mixing the juice into carbonated beverages, beer, or cocktails. Daimasaki oranges pair well with herbs such as basil, mint, and rosemary, meats including poultry, turkey, and fish, other seafood, nuts such as cashews, pine, and almonds, and fruits including mangoes, coconut, pineapples, bananas, and cantaloupe. Whole, unwashed Daimasaki oranges will keep for a few days at room temperature and 2 to 3 weeks when stored in the refrigerator.
In the Kagoshima Prefecture, Daimasaki oranges are cultivated under strict conditions and critically examined before being offered to consumers as a luxury fruit. The greenhouse-grown oranges are first sorted according to size and appearance, discarding misshapen fruits or oranges with external skin blemishes. They are also dropped through various sized holes to define the fruit’s size. Some farms have up to five measurements, ranging from M to 4XL, and the size of the fruits often determines the price and packaging of the final product. After the fruits are sorted, they are tested for optimal sugar and acidity levels, ensuring the fruits have a consistent flavoring. Like dekopon oranges, Daimasaki oranges must have a sugar content of at least 13 Brix and an acidity of 1% or less to create their famous candy-like sweetness mixed with tangy nuances. Optical sensors and high-tech equipment are used to test the fruits, and this innovative approach to sorting oranges has allowed growers to release consistently flavored produce. Most Daimasaki oranges are sold as premium fruits and are marketed as high-end oranges to give as gifts. It has also been reported that the rare fruits have been accepted as a form of tax payment in some areas of the Kagoshima Prefecture.
Daimasaki oranges were discovered growing as a sport of the dekopon orange in 1997 in the Kagoshima Prefecture of Japan. Dekpon oranges are a famous Japanese variety stemming from a cross between a kiyomi tangor, a hybrid of an orange and a mandarin, and a ponkan, a seedy citrus from India. Several dekopon sports have arisen from gardens across Japan since their release in 1972, and Daimasaki oranges were chosen as a unique variant grown in Kagoshima Prefecture. The oranges were first noticed in the garden of Mr. Koichi Ohno in Akune City and were selected as a brand name citrus to represent the Kagoshima Prefecture. Kagoshima is located on the southernmost part of Kyushu Island and is a temperate to subtropical region known for its ideal citrus growing environment. Daimasaki was later registered as an official cultivar in 2006. Today Daimasaki oranges are only produced in the Kagoshima Prefecture in cities including Ichikikushikino, Izumi, Minamisatsuma, Soo, and Osaki. The variety is considered rare as it is cultivated in small quantities and is sold as a premium citrus in select markets throughout Japan. It is also sold direct from farms in the Kagoshima Prefecture and is exported to Japanese grocers in continental Asia. The Daimasaki oranges featured in the photograph above were sourced from Meidi-Ya Supermarket at the Millenia Walk in Singapore. The oranges were air-flown in from the Kagoshima Prefecture.