A Brief History of Grapefruit
For over 80 years Pittman & Davis has been providing the best mail order grapefruit to our customers. We take special pride in our sweet and juicy Ruby Red Grapefruit, which has made receiving a grapefruit box or assorted grapefruit baskets a welcome gift for many year after year. As a result, there are a lot of interesting facts we know and can share with you about this fascinating fruit!
Here are six common questions about grapefruit that sum up the citrus fruit’s history in a few quick points:
What Exactly Is Grapefruit?
Grapefruit is a citrus hybrid of the pomelo and sweet orange fruits. Citrus fruits naturally hybridize when two varieties are planted near each other. Most citrus is derived from random or intentional crossbreeding between the citron, pomelo and mandarin fruits and other citrus hybrids. Because those base fruits are native to Asia, the vast majority of hybrid citrus fruits are also from Asia. Grapefruit, however, is not.
Where Did Grapefruit Originate?
Today, the USA is the world’s largest consumer of grapefruit, with large commercial groves in Florida, California, Texas and Arizona. But the grapefruit’s ancestor, the pomelo, comes from Indonesia and Malaysia. Grapefruit itself was first found in Barbados in the mid-1600s.
How Did Grapefruit Get Its Name?
Unlike grapes (which are technically berries), grapefruit are citrus fruits. Grapefruit’s English name evolved not from its taste, but how it grows – in grape-like clusters.
When Did Grapefruit Start Growing in America?
Grapefruit has been a household favorite in the United States since the 1940s, but that wasn’t always the case. While it first arrived in America in 1823, its thick skin and bitter flavor made it slow to take off. It wasn’t until Florida farmer John A. MacDonald established the first grapefruit nursery in Orange County in 1870 that the grapefruit began to gain interest.
By the late 1800s, grapefruit trees were being cultivated in southern Texas; by 1910, grapefruit was a major commercial fruit in the Rio Grande Valley, Arizona and California as well as Florida. The pink grapefruit and other varieties were developed, and in 1929 a Texas citrus grower discovered a mutated red grapefruit randomly growing on a pink grapefruit tree, which became the popular Ruby Red Grapefruit.
How Has Grapefruit Changed Over Time?
The original grapefruit was about the size of an orange, seedy and very bitter. Today, commercial growers focus on developing fruits that are larger, more uniform in size, more attractive in color, and with fewer seeds. Some grapefruit varieties are sweeter, too (such as pink grapefruits, which contain lycopene).
When is the Best Time to Buy Grapefruit?
In the U.S., you can easily find grapefruit for sale from October to June. Florida and Texas groves bear fruit beginning in October, with Arizona and California crops coming to fruition in January to June. Because grapefruits are so popular, they are imported in the off-season, but the best grapefruit consists of fresh, in-season varieties.