Pomelo or Grapefruit?

August 30, 2012

Juicy facts about the pomelo, and a few ways it compares to its more common relative, the grapefruit.

Mark Boughton Photography / styling by Teresa Blackburn

In the world of citrus fruit, the pomelo is a giant. Known botanically as Citrus maximaor Citrus grandis, pomelos can grow up to a foot in diameter and weigh in at 25 pounds. But don't be intimidated; the ones you'll encounter at the market will be easier to manage. Green in color, pomelos look like grapefruits on steroids. They taste like grapefruit as well, with a similar sweet-tart range and very little bitterness. 

Since the pomelo is somewhat exotic, you could assume they're the work of fanatical grapefruit breeders gunning for a Guinness record. But you'd be wrong. Pomelos appear in the oldest surviving agricultural records of China, where they've been cultivated for several millennia. In addition to grapefruit, the pomelo is related to the tangelo (a tangerine/pomelo cross) and the Ugli fruit, a less attractive Jamaican cousin. 


Cut pomelos in half and eat as you would a grapefruit. The spongy rind is much thicker than a grapefruit's, so if you want to peel it, it helps to score the skin down to the flesh. In Cantonese cuisine, the rind is used to flavor stocks and braises. In Thailand, wedges are dipped in salt, sugar and chili. Pomelos are eaten on the last day of the year in China to bring good luck and prosperity in the coming months.


—By Jo Marshall, a food writer in Deephaven, Minn.


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