Ship Grapefruit from Texas
Image via Wikipedia
The grapefruit industry in America did not begin to bear fruit (pun intended) until 1929. Before that time the grapefruit was nothing more than an exotic novelty that was grown on small farms and orchards in Florida and Texas.
But after the discovery of a new variety of grapefruit consumers finally started to take heed of the now popular breakfast fruit. So, how did the grapefruit go from persona non grata in America to one of its leading fruit crops? The story is actually quite interesting.
It begins on the tiny island nation of Barbados where the grapefruit was first documented in 1750. A few years later, botanists determined that the exotic new fruit had actually originated in Jamaica. They were certain of this fact because the grapefruit is a hybrid fruit, a cross between a Jamaican sweet orange and an Indonesian pomelo.
By the early 19th century, the grapefruit had made a name for itself as an island delicacy and explorers often took grapefruit seeds with them on their travels. One Spanish explorer who had stopped in Jamaica gathered some seeds and brought them to Florida in 1823.
Unfortunately, the Sunshine State was already dominated by another citrus fruit, the orange. And though crops of the new fruit were planted in South Florida, farmers did not ship grapefruit. At the time, people simply did not have a taste for the sour fruit. Perhaps it was because they had grown accustomed to the sweet orange, which was a popular hand fruit. Tangerines and other sweet citrus fruits also were popular at the time which made the grapefruit stand out even more because it wasn't a glamorous fruit. The grapefruit, on the other hand, was merely a breakfast fruit, and a sour one at that!
It would be another few decades before farmers would begin to ship grapefruit in Florida. But that was only after the new fruit achieved success in Texas. Of course, it was not an easy road.
The grapefruit arrived in the Lone Star State sometime in the late 19th century. The first crops were cultivated in a region known as the Rio Grande Valley, which is at the southernmost tip of Texas.
Farmers would later learn that this was a match made in fruit heaven. What we mean is that the subtropical climate and the nutrient-rich soil made it one of the best places on the face of the earth to cultivate grapefruit.
But farmers did not ship grapefruit until a new sweet variety came on the scene. The fruit was named the “Ruby” after its red flesh. It was also said to be sweeter than either the white or pink varieties. In time, this grapefruit would take the state by storm and would help to establish the citrus industry in Texas. At present, farmers ship grapefruit from the Rio Grande Valley at the rate of about a half a million tons per year.