John H. Shary and the Texas Grapefruit
The grapefruit came to Texas in the late nineteenth century with little fanfare and low expectations. The exotic island fruit had been a flop in Florida, where it was deemed too sour for general consumption. But orchard owners in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas were willing to take a chance on it. They had been growing citrus for generations and had been unable to establish a commercial industry. Farmers put their faith in the grapefruit.
The first Texas grapefruit crop was harvested in 1893. Once again, it failed to impress local fruit lovers. People wanted fruit that was sweet and easy to eat. They did not want to have to sit down at a table and use utensils just to enjoy it. At the time, fruit was rarely eaten with meals. It was a snack. Folks would carry fruit in their pockets or their purses and eat it when they needed a
quick pick me up. For obvious reasons, the grapefruit did not make a great snack food. Farmers had all but given up on the grapefruit when an ambitious developer by the name of John H. Shary proclaimed it the crop of the future.
It was more than mere bombast. Shary put his money where his mouth was. He purchased 16,000 acres of land and grew pink and white grapefruit as far as the eye could see. More than any other orchard owner, Shary was responsible for the commercial grapefruit industry, which sent its first shipments from the Lower Rio Grande Valley in South Texas in 1920. After nearly a decade of struggle, the industry got the boost it needed when a new grapefruit variety was
Like most citrus fruits, the grapefruit is prone to mutation. But since it was still a young fruit, there were only two varieties before 1929–the original white and the mutant pink. Discovering a red grapefruit on a pink tree wasn't cause for celebration. After all, the pink and the white varieties tasted and sold about the same. Fortunately, the new red variety was different. Not only did it have red flesh, but it was also much sweeter than its predecessors.
The fruit was christened the Ruby Red, and it became so popular in Texas that fruit farmers banned the white and pink varieties in 1962 to focus solely on red grapefruit. Famers and scientists have been competing with each other for decades now to see who can develop the reddest grapefruit in the world. At least three varieties of red grapefruit from Texas have been trademarked. The reddest of which is the Rio StarÂ®, which is said to be 7 to 10 times redder than the original Ruby Red. There is also the Ruby-SweetÂ®, which is 3 to 5 times redder than the Ruby Red. Finally, there is the FlameÂ®, which is not quite as red as its compeers, but it is quite sweet.