The grapefruit is a fruit from the sub-tropical citrus tree of the same name, which is famous for bearing bitter fruit. When it was found, it was named the ‘forbidden fruit’ and is commonly misidentified as the shaddock or pomelo. It is a hybrid that was first bred in Barbados in the 18th century.

Grapefruit on a tree
Grapefruit on a tree

Grapefruit trees are evergreen, and are quite short at only about 5 to 6 meters tall. However, some can reach up to 13 to 15 meters tall. Its leaves are long, thin, and dark green. The flowers of the grapefruit tree are white and its fruit has a yellow-orange skin. It is an oblated sphere, which ranges between 10 to 15 centimeters in diameter. Its flesh is acidic and segmented in the fruit, however the colour of the fruit depends on the cultivar. The flesh can be red, pink, or white and defines its sweetness. The first grapefruit ever patented was the US Ruby Red in 1929.

Grapfruits first became popular to eat in the late 19th century. Before this, it was only grown as an ornamental plant. There are several ancestors of the grapefruit. This includes the Jamaican sweet orange and the Indonesian pomelo. Legend has it that a “Captain Shaddock” brought pomelo seeds to Jamaica and bred the first fruit, but Scientists think that it was most likely a naturally occuring hybrid.

This fruit was documented in 1750 by Rev. Griffith Hughes who was describing Barbados specimens. It is considered one of the 7 Wonders of Barbados. It was brought to Florida, one of the major places that grapefruits are produced, by Count Odette Philippe in 1823. The USA is the top producer of grapefruits and pomelos, followed by China, South Africa, and Mexico.

The colour of the grapefruit's flesh indicates its sweetness
The colour of the grapefruit's flesh indicates its sweetness

Grapefruits are a great fruit to eat, in terms of health benefits. It is a good source of phytochemicals and nutrients, such as vitamin C, fiber pectin, and lycopene which is a type of antioxidant. It is also known to assist in lowering cholesterol. It is also thought that it has an inhibiting effect on the metaboolism of some cancer medication, which means that drugs can be used in smaller doses and therefore it helps to reduce cost.

However, there are some downsides. Grapefruit seed extract is claimed to have strong antimicrobial properties against fungi and bacteria. However, no studies have actually ever demonstrated this. In addition, it is currently being disputed whether grapefruit causes breat cancer in post-menopausal women.

Despite this, grapefruits are still a popular fruit. In Costa Rica, grapefruits are cooked to remove its sourness so it becomes sweet. They are also stuffed with dulce de leche which is sort of like a caramel to make stuffed grapefruits.

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