Have you ever wondered where grapefruit got its name? Our best guess is that the name comes from the way grapefruit grows--in clusters just like grapes, sometimes as many as twenty-five fruits in a cluster hanging from a tree.
Hybrid grapefruit are wonderfully different from the original grapefruit, which can still be found occasionally n Oriental markets. Called pomelos or shadocks, these tend to be larger than grapefruit, with rough, puffy, thick rinds and lots of seeds. In most cases they're also quite sour and have very little juice. For my money, today's hybrid grapefruit is a vast improvement.
Grapefruit are grown in many parts of the world, but the United States is the main producer and consumer. Florida produces 75 percent of the domestic crop, with Texas a distant second, followed by California and Arizona.
Grapefruit was introduced to Florida in the early 1800's. For a hundred years it was sold chiefly to tourists as a curiosity. Not until the turn of the century were the first limited supplies shipped to northern cities. Grapefruit are now shipped to all parts of the United States and Canada, as well as to Europe and the Near and Far East.
Florida grapefruit are grown in two areas: in central Florida and in the Indian River area on the eastern coast, where the soil and climate are perfect for grapefruit. The Indian River valley runs parallel to the Gulf Stream, and the warm ocean current shields the groves from temperature changes and spares them from frost even when groves much farther south are damaged.
There is a difference between California and Florida grapefruit. Florida grapefruit have a thinner rind and are sweeter and less pulpy than the California varieties. California grapefruit, which are in the stores in late summer and fall, are easier to peel and segment, but their flavor is only fair--the flesh just isn't as heavy with sweet juice as the Florida fruit.
Grapefruit with a clear yellow rind are called goldens; those with some bronzing are bronzes, and those with heavy bronzing are called russets. Flesh color runs from yellow-white to pink to nearly red. Although their colors vary, there's not much difference in their flavor and juiciness. Those qualities are determined by the lateness of the season, the specific variety, and how the fruit has been handled. Duncans and orchids--old top-of- the-line varieties--are juicy and sweet; they are excellent for segmenting and make a great juice. The Duncans now grown only in limited supplies and sold to canneries and processors, but a descendant of the Duncan--the Marsh seedless--has taken its place. It's not quite as juicy as the Duncan, but it has a fine flavor and texture. From the Marsh seedless, hybridizers have developed a pink Marsh, and from that a darker pink strain called the Ruby Red, a very good grapefruit now primarily grown in Texas. The large Marsh rubies from Florida are now called Star Rubies, and they're probably the sweetest of all--great for segmenting, juicing, or eating with a spoon. Red grapefruit has twenty-five times more vitamin A than Golden, but otherwise they are almost nutritionally equal.
Grapefruit are available year round, but the best fruit--from Florida and Texas--are found between November and June, with the peak starting around Christmas and continuing through April. Small early golden and pink grapefruit are the first to show up on the market in October. They're very juicy but not as sweet as they are later in the season. Don't be afraid to buy a small grapefruit; even in the fall they make good juice, and as the season progresses into winter and early spring, the smaller varieties get sweeter even as they maintain their high juice content. Whether they're large or small, the Florida and Texas crops improve in quality from October to December and are at their sweetest and juiciest in late winter and early spring.
In late July, California and Arizona grapefruit start to arrive and continue through October, but at best they're only pretty good--not as high in quality as the fruit from Florida and Texas. During the midsummer months, grapefruit also become pretty costly. Here again the old rule of thumb applies the higher the price, the lower the quality. In the summer months, forgo that breakfast grapefruit and replace it with seasonal berries and fruits.
Look for smooth, thin-skinned fruits that are either round or slightly flattened at each end. Like other citrus fruits, grapefruit should be firm, shiny, and heavy in the hand for its size. Fruit that's heavy for its size promises the most juice, and because grapefruits are almost three-quarters liquid, juiciness always means flavor. Avoid coarse, rough looking, or puffy fruit or any that have a puffy or protruding en, which indicates that the fruit is dry and flavorless.
Leave grapefruit on the counter if you're going to consume it in less than a week; for longer storage, refrigerate.
Grapefruit is great on its own, but if you want to sweeten a particularly tart fruit, sprinkle the halves with a little brown or whit sugar and a dot of butter and put them in a shallow baking dish under the broiler for a minute or two, until the tops glaze and start to bubble.
Peeled and sectioned grapefruit is excellent in a salad of mixed mild and bitter greens with a light dressing.
Pete's Broiled Grapefruit
Other recipes from Produce Pete.