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Vegetarians in Paradise

On the Highest Perch

Grapefruit--the New Kid on the Block

Grapefruit at a Glance
History Uses Name Origin Oddities Medical Benefits
Growing Nutrition Purchasing Preparation Recipe

The grapefruit, not even 300 years old, is just a kid in the world of fruits. The offspring of the pummelo, sometimes spelled pomelo and even known as shaddock, the grapefruit may have appeared as a horticultural accident during the 1700s in Jamaica. The grapefruit might never have made a debut at all if it hadn't been for Captain Shaddock, a 17th century English ship commander who brought seeds of the pummelo from the East Indies and delivered them to the West Indies in 1693.

Another theory is that the grapefruit may have been a cross between the pummelo and an orange, though no records of a deliberate hybridization exist. In either case, the pummelo, that is native to Malaysia and Indonesia, seems to have fathered the grapefruit that began as a smaller fruit than our familiar grapefruit and was actually about the size of an orange.

By 1750 it was known in Barbados as the "forbidden fruit," a name that traveled to Jamaica by 1789. There the grapefruit was also called the "smaller shaddock" after Captain Shaddock. In his book In Search of the Golden Apple, USDA citrus scientist William C. Cooper describes grapefruit and sweet oranges growing wild on many islands of the West Indies. While researching in Haiti, he noticed a citrus fruit resembling the grapefruit, but called chadique that was flourishing in the mountains.

Ugli In Jamaica the grapefruit was not a popular fruit because of its bitter, acidic flavor. However, the Jamaican ugli, a hybrid of the grapefruit and the tangerine that appeared in the early 1900's, is favored for its appealing sweet flavor and juiciness. Somewhat resembling the grapefruit, the ugli suffers image problems. Its unattractive skin is thick and wrinkled, and it is oddly shaped out of round with a flat bottom. The ugli varies in color from mottled deep green to greenish yellow and sometimes even yellow orange.

A French botanist, the Chevalier de Tussac, wrote in his notes in 1820:

"I have had the occasion to observe, at Jamaica, in the botanical garden of the Government, a variety of shaddock whose fruits, which are not bigger than a fair orange, are disposed in clusters; the English in Jamaica call this the 'forbidden fruit' or 'smaller shaddock.'

The grapefruit first appeared in the U.S. in 1823 when Count Odette Phillipe brought the seeds from the Bahamas to Safety Harbor near Tampa, Florida. Like so many other foods introduced into the United Sates from distant countries, the grapefruit did not gain immediate popularity. One American gardening encyclopedia referred to grapefruit as "thick-skinned and worthless."

The seeds from those first plants thrived and produced fruit. The neighborhood received a gift of the seeds from those grapefruits, launching the first cultivation of grapefruit in that region. By 1840, grapefruit was stirring some minor interest.

One day in the year 1870 John A. MacDonald noticed an unusual tree near his home in Orange County, Florida. The large clusters of golden fruits were so appealing he bought them all. Soon after, he established the first grapefruit nursery from the seeds of that tree.

In 1885, Florida's first shipment of grapefruits to New York and Philadelphia created a flurry of interest in the fruit and was the beginning of a serious commercial grapefruit industry.

By the late 1800's grapefruit trees were popping up in unlikely locales like the southern part of Texas where it was thought too cold for citrus to survive. One very determined grapefruit tree froze to the ground during a very cold Texas winter but survived to produce fruit. After freezing many winters, the tree proved to be a survivor and lived to produce fruit repeatedly.

Florida developed into a major commercial center with its burgeoning grapefruit crop of Duncan and Marsh varieties. The Duncan, whose ancestor was a seed planted by Count Phillipe, is a flavorful but seedy grapefruit most used for canning. Because they discolor, pink grapefruits are not used for canning. The Marsh may have been a chance seedless variety and was developed in the 1860's by a nurseryman named C.M. Marsh.

As early as 1910 farmers were successfully growing grapefruits in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, and in Arizona and California. However, during the 1940's grapefruit became a household favorite across the U.S. Canned grapefruit sections, grapefruit juice, and fresh grapefruit were not only shipped throughout the country, but also exported. During this era Jamaica, Trinidad, South America and Israel ventured into grapefruit cultivation.

New grapefruit varieties, including those with pink and red flesh, were developed in the early 1900's and became a popular commodity in the northern states. In 1929 a Texas citrus grower marveled at the red grapefruit growing on a tree that was producing pink grapefruits. That mutation became a new cultivar named Ruby Red that was the first grapefruit granted a U.S. patent. That Texas Red became the official state fruit of Texas in 1993.

As its popularity grew, grapefruit could be found in Mexico, Argentina, Cyprus, and Morocco. Today Mexico exports grapefruits to the United States, Canada and Japan. In the Orient, where the pummelo reigns, grapefruit is a minor crop. Central Americans consider grapefruit too acidic, preferring their sweet tropical pineapples, papayas, and melons.

Presently, the United States produces 41 percent of the world's grapefruit and consumes more than other countries. Florida, the state where grapefruit was first grown, is still the largest producer with Texas following close behind. California and Arizona also have thriving commercial grapefruit orchards.

Commercial growers focus on developing fruits that are larger, more uniform in size, and with attractive color. Unfortunately, flavor is sacrificed for appearance. The heirloom varieties were far tastier than today's new cultivars but are only used for canning grapefruit juice.

Naming the Grapefruit
Reverend Griffith Hughes came upon the grapefruit in 1750 and called it the "forbidden fruit" when he and others were seeking the origin of the tree of good and evil in the Garden of Eden. The grapefruit carried the "forbidden fruit" name for many years after.

Originally named Citrus paradisi Macf., the grapefruit was considered a sport of the pummelo, the giant of the citrus family. Botanically, a sport is a dramatic variation of the normal variety resulting from a mutation. James MacFayden, a botanist, differentiated the grapefruit from the pummelo in his 1837 work Flora of Jamaica.

More than 100 years later in 1948 citrus horticulturists began to examine the grapefruit's botanical origins and concluded it was not a sport of the pummelo but a hybrid between the pummelo and the orange that occurred accidentally. The grapefruit now has the scientific name Citrus X paradisi.

The grapefruit's common name probably came from the 19th century naturalist who noted that the fruits appeared to grow in clusters like grapes. He was observing those fist-sized fruits that grew from seeds brought to the West Indies by Captain Shaddock.

Pomelo Several attempts to change the grapefruit's name to something more appealing were unsuccessful. American horticulturists, convinced the grapefruit's name was unfitting, wanted to call it pomelo, but some people suggested it would be confused with pummelo. Then as recently as 1962, the Florida Citrus Mutual attempted to give the grapefruit a name that would be more commercially appealing and increase its marketability. This effort, too, failed because of public outcry. The grapefruit is still a grapefruit.

Some Dutch people refer to the grapefruit as a shaddock, others call it a pampelmoose, a name originally given to a pomelo but now used for grapefruit.

The French call grapefruit pamplemousse (pumpkin-sized citron). The Italians named it pompelmo.

The highly publicized grapefruit diet of the 1970's claimed that a person could lose 10 pounds (4.5 kg) in 12 days by consuming either one-half grapefruit or eight ounces of grapefruit juice with every meal. Grapefruit, because of its enzymes, was said to literally burn fat away, yet no scientific evidence has proved this claim.

The U.S. stock market crash of 1929 and the following years of depression were the catalyst for introducing the grapefruit to destitute families across the country. Grapefruit, along with other citrus fruits, could be had for free with orange food stamps from the welfare board. Families encountering the fruit for the first time weren't quite sure whether it was to be cooked or eaten raw. The welfare board received frequent complaints that the families had cooked the grapefruit for several hours and still found it too tough to eat.

Aroma-therapists turn to the essential oil of the grapefruit for its uplifting and reviving qualities. Used to scent a room, grapefruit oil creates a relaxed and happy environment and can relieve stress and nervous exhaustion. Grapefruit oil is said to balance the emotions.

Grapefruit Cuisine
When grapefruit became popular in the U.S., most households owned a set of grapefruit spoons that were provided whenever grapefruit halves was served. The utensils had pointed tips and serrated edges for separating the flesh from the membranes.

During the '30's, '40's, and '50's half of a grapefruit frequently appeared as a breakfast favorite, its sections loosened by a special knife with a serrated, curved blade. Topping the grapefruit was a spoonful of honey or sugar and sometimes a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, or cloves.

A popular salad included grapefruit and orange sections tossed with lettuce and onion rings and dressed with a French, poppyseed, or honey-mustard dressing.

During the '50's and '60's the fruit cup of canned grapefruit and orange sections in sweet syrup served with a maraschino cherry on top became the cliché of the day. Dinner at fancy restaurants and elegant weddings often began with the syrupy citrus fruit cup. Colorful Jello molds were a must on every buffet or smorgasbord table. Many molds featured yellow, orange, or green Jello with chopped grapefruit and orange sections imbedded. Broiled grapefruit topped with sweetener was popular as a starter as well as a dessert.

The English enjoy grapefruit marmalade, while confectioners prepare candied grapefruit peel.

Because grapefruits are well endowed with juicy pulp, squeezing the fruit into juice was a natural that began when grapefruit became popular from the '30's on. A glass of grapefruit juice at breakfast still offers delightful refreshment. Even today, diners would feel that something was missing if a breakfast buffet didn't include pitchers of grapefruit and orange juice.

Culinary enthusiasts flavored vinegar with grapefruit juice.

For the imbibers, there is grapefruit wine, grapefruit beer, and grapefruit liqueur. Forbidden Fruit is a potent, cognac-based grapefruit liqueur made with sweet oranges and sweetened with honey. The liqueur has a hint of bitter undertone and is often blended with fruit juices, gin, vodka, rum, or brandy. Also available is Pink Grapefruit Liqueur.

The process of making grapefruit beer begins with six peeled and sliced grapefruits combined with three gallons of hot water in a large crockpot. Cool and add 12 ounces of yeast. Seal the crock and allow it to ferment. Bottle it immediately after fermentation and drink.

The oil extracted from grapefruit peel is used as a flavoring agent in soft drinks and as an enhancement in reconstituted grapefruit juice.

After bleaching and refining, grapefruit seed oil is used as mild, unsaturated oil for cooking, though it is uncommon and difficult to locate.

Hardly any portion of the grapefruit goes to waste. What is considered waste matter from grapefruit packing stations is transformed into molasses and fed to cattle. After extracting oil from the seed hulls, the hulls are used by farmers as a natural soil conditioner. Sometimes the hulls are combined with dried grapefruit pulp and fed to cattle.

Medicinal Uses
Every part of the grapefruit is recognized for its many health benefits. Grapefruit seed extract, available in health food stores, is commonly used as an anti-fungal remedy.

An infusion prepared from grapefruit flower blossoms becomes a treatment for insomnia. The beverage is also valued as a cardiac tonic.

Grapefruit stimulates the digestive tract and aids in relieving indigestion and gas. The fruit also has diuretic properties helpful to people with water retention and liver and gall bladder conditions.

Rubbed on the skin, grapefruit is beneficial in treating acne and oily skin.

Grapefruit pulp, because of its acidic nature, is an effective treatment for urinary infections.

An extract drawn from the leaves of the grapefruit tree contains antibiotic properties.

Pectin contained in the grapefruit rind and the membranes clinging to the grapefruit sections is effective in lowering serum cholesterol.

Medical Warning: Some medications interact with grapefruit and grapefruit juice, causing the medication to become more intense. Check with your physician or pharmacist to make sure grapefruit will not affect your medications. To be on the safe side while taking medications, drink other fruit or citrus juices. Most will provide plenty of vitamins and minerals. While you are taking medications, read beverage labels carefully to be sure juice combinations do not contain grapefruit.

Officially named Citrus X paradisi by 1830, grapefruit, which only had white flesh at that time, was established as its own citrus species.

The grapefruit varieties are divided into two main categories--the white and the red. Florida developed the white Marsh, a seedless grapefruit, while Texas bred the pink and red varieties (C. reticulata). Red Blush and Ruby Red were developed from the Marsh. Ruby Red and Red Blush can be recognized by the hint of red blush on the bright yellow skin. The flesh of the pink grapefruit varies from pale pink to intense reddish tones, depending on the season and differences in soil condition. The many common varieties have developed from these two main categories.

While the Marsh is considered a seedless grapefruit, it does actually contain a few seeds. The term seedless refers to those grapefruits that produce five seeds or less per fruit.

Popular varieties grown today include Duncan, Foster, Marsh, Oroblanco, Paradise Navel, Redblush, Star Ruby, Rio Red, Ruby Sweet, Sweetie, Thompson, and Triumph.

The flesh of the grapefruit is similar to that of the orange, with individual sections joined by a thick, somewhat fibrous, edible membrane. Fruits average about 5 to 6 inches (12.5 to 15 cm) in diameter.

The grapefruit begins to bear fruit four to six years after planting and can produce up to 30 or 40 fruits on a single branch. A single tree, in a productive year, can generate 1300 to 1500 pounds of fruit.

Most grapefruit trees grow about15 to 20 feet in height (4.5 to 6 m) though some can grow to 45 feet (13.7 m) when very old. The tree, an evergreen, is attractive with a rounded top and branches that spread horizontally. Overall, the tree has a rounded appearance with darker leaves at the top and lighter leaves on the lower branches. When the tree is in full fruit, the branches nearly touch the ground.

Fragrant grapefruit blossoms appear in the spring. The closed buds are white with a green tint and open into white, four-petaled flowers that may be single or in clusters. The grapefruit itself, depending on the variety, is round, pear-shaped, or oblate (basically round but flattened at the top and bottom).

The skin of the fruit is a pale lemony color though sometimes has a delicate pink tint. Its texture may be smooth or rough and slightly bumpy and has a characteristic thickness of about 3/8-inch (1 cm). Between the outer skin and the fruit inside is a white pithy layer that has a somewhat bitter flavor. While some varieties are seedless, others bear many seeds.

The fruit inside is juicy and varies in color and flavor depending on variety. Whether the flavor is sweet or tart, grapefruit has a distinctive, sometimes astringent and slightly bitter overtone. Some varieties are mildly sweet, while others are intensely sweet. Some grapefruits have white flesh inside, some delicately pink, while others, known as "ruby reds" appear intensely red.

Climate plays a significant role in the length of maturity and the level of acidity of the grapefruit. In cooler, temperate zones grapefruit matures in about 13 months compared to 7 or 8 months in warmer regions. Grapefruits grown in hot tropical climates have a lower acidic level than those cultivated in cooler regions. Florida grapefruit is known for its superior flavor owed to the moist hot temperatures.

Growers recognize that grapefruits with thin skins and juicy pulp are grown in a humid climate like Southern Florida. Those with thick rough skins and drier pulp are the result of drier climates such as the desert regions of Southern California.

Grapefruit Grapefruit thrives on plenty of rain and flourishes contentedly with 36 to 44 inches (90 to 111 cm) annually. Soil requirements are varied. Some varieties of grapefruit grow best in acidic soil, while others prefer a more alkaline environment. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, in cooperation with the Texas A & M University and Rio Farms, Inc. in Texas, conducted a program in 1946 of testing grapefruits grown on different rootstock to determine which would bring the best results. The researchers learned that soil condition and its mineral content played a significant role in successful production.

Commercial growers can extend the marketing season of grapefruits by picking some mature fruits while leaving others on the tree for up to three months before harvesting. This natural method of "storing" on the tree allows those fruits to grow larger.

Harvesting is accomplished by various methods. Some growers prefer to hand pick the fruits on the lower branches and use ladders to clip the stems of those higher on the tree. Because the citrus twigs are thorny, gloves and protective clothing are helpful to avoid skin scratches. Picking hooks, once popular, are seldom used today because they were found to damage many fruits

Many California citrus growers employ harvesting machines that literally shake the fruits off the tree. For this method, trees must be carefully pruned to accommodate the machine that is operated by a team of three workers.

GRAPEFRUIT SECTIONS, ONE CUP (240 ml): Fresh grapefruit sections from California or Arizona, whether pink, red, or white, have about 85 calories, 1 gram of protein, and about 3 grams of fiber. Grapefruit sections from Florida have 69 to 74 calories.

The carbohydrate content varies between 17 and 22 grams, while the fat content is negligible.

Red and pink grapefruit shines with its approximately 596 I.U. of vitamin A. The white grapefruit is much lower in vitamin A with about 23 I.U.

Grapefruit has a full range of B vitamins with the exception of vitamin B12 and contain about 28 mcg of folic acid.

Grapefruit sections are a good source of vitamin C ranging from 79 to 88 mg.

Grapefruit offers plenty of calcium, potassium, and magnesium as well as trace amounts of iron and zinc.

The grapefruit membranes are a good source of pectin, a soluble fiber helpful in reducing cholesterol.

GRAPEFRUIT JUICE ONE CUP (240 ml): Canned grapefruit juice has about 100 calories and 1 to 2 grams of protein. Most canned grapefruit juice is sold with the pulp removed, resulting in a loss of fiber. The carbohydrate content of the juice is similar to the grapefruit sections with 17 to 22 grams.

Pink grapefruit juice supplies 1087 I.U. of vitamin A, while the white provides a minimal 25 I.U.

With the exception of vitamin B12, the juice swells with B vitamins with 10 mg of thiamine, .05 mg of riboflavin, and .49 to .57 mg of niacin. Folic acid content is about 25.7 mcg, while vitamin C ranges from 72 to 93.9 mg.

Grapefruit Calcium content varies from 17.2 to 22.3 mg, and potassium offers 378 to 400 mg. Iron and zinc are present with zinc providing 12 to 22 mg and iron at .05 mg.

Purchasing and Storage
Grapefruit is harvested when fully ripened and is available in the supermarkets year round. However, its peak season is January through June.

Grapefruit can keep a week or slightly longer at room temperatures of 65 degrees or higher. For longer storage, about six to eight weeks, store the fruits in the fruit and vegetable keeper of the refrigerator.

Commercial grapefruit is often washed and waxed before coming to market to retard moisture loss and lengthen shelf life. Frequently, fumigants and fungicides are applied to the grapefruit to prevent spoilage. Wash grapefruit thoroughly before cutting into the flesh.

For a juicy grapefruit, choose one that feels solid and weighty. Look for a shiny, smooth skin to be sure of freshness. Reject those with soft areas, large brown spots, or dull dry looking skin.

To consume grapefruit at optimum flavor, keep the fruit at room temperature at least 2 hours before eating.

The traditional half grapefruit sectioned with a grapefruit knife simply can't be beat. Enjoy it as a breakfast, lunch, or dinner starter. If the grapefruit's distinct bitter bite is not to your liking, sweeten with a spoonful agave nectar, maple syrup, date sugar, or Florida crystals and add a dash of cinnamon.

Nothing compares to the delightfully rich flavor of a glass of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice. When fresh grapefruit is not available, frozen juice is an excellent substitute.

Grapefruit juice adds a robust zing when blended with other fruits such as apples, pears, and oranges. Prepare a refreshing beverage or smoothie in the blender.

Grapefruit has a natural affinity for the avocado. Combine them in a salad along with greens and some crunchy vegetables like jicama, celery, sweet onions, or kohlrabi. Add a tangy dressing or one with a hint of fruity sweetness.

When citrus is in season, take advantage of the varieties by joining them together in a fruit cup, a beverage, or a salad. Include white, pink, and red grapefruit for more color variety.

Grapefruit sections, either pink or white, along with orange and tangerine sections make a tempting salad dish when arranged over spinach or baby greens and topped with sweet onion rings and a creamy avocado dressing.

Elysa Markowitz in her book Living With Green Power creates an innovative zesty soup by juicing 2 oranges and 3/4 of a peeled grapefruit. She then garnishes the soup with 1 sliced avocado, 1 orange, and the remainder of the grapefruit.

Make a grapefruit spritzer with sweet grapefruit juice and seltzer.

Score the whole grapefruit and peel as you would an orange. Separate the top portion of the sections, keeping the bottoms attached. Open like flower petals and fill center with fruit salad or a tangy chopped vegetable salad.

Prepare a unique sorbet with grapefruit juice. Thin slightly with water, sweeten to taste, and freeze about 2 or 3 hours. Remove and stir, and return to the freezer until ready to serve.

Grapefruit, with its bracing bite, lends extraordinary punch to any food combination. Enhance your salad of mixed greens with a unique oil-free salad dressing made from fresh pink grapefruit. Add sweet fruits such as chopped apples or pears, and raisins to balance the acidic nip of the grapefruit.


Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until grapefruit is fully pureed, about 30 seconds. Using a funnel, pour into a narrow neck bottle for easy serving. Shake well before serving. Store leftovers in the refrigerator. Will keep about a week. Makes 2 cups (480 ml).

*Guar gum is a dried white powder that comes from the seed tissue of the guar plant grown in India and used for thickening. The powder is available in health food markets.

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