The Origins of Ruby Red Grapefruit

By: Pittman & Davis | On: | Category: Uncategorized
Star Ruby Grapefruit

Image by ♥ he@rt ♥ via Flickr

With over one and half million tons shipped each year, the United States is the world leader in grapefruit production. Nearly half of the grapefruits on earth are grown in just four states–Florida, Texas, California and Arizona. When compared to the world's most popular fruit, the orange, America has only about fifteen percent of the world market. Why is the grapefruit so popular in America?

Well, it wasn't always that way. In fact, when the grapefruit first arrived on U.S. soil, most people wanted nothing to do with it. The year was 1823 and the place was Florida. Already awash in oranges, farmers were skeptical about this new tropical fruit with the funny name. Then they tasted it. Most agreed that the grapefruit was much too sour for popular consumption. And they were right!

It was at about this time that the commercial orange industry in Florida was beginning to bear fruit (pun intended). And the last thing farmers needed was a crop that didn't have a prayer of competing with the orange. Even so, some farms planted small grapefruit crops and sold or gave them away as a novelty fruit. There was no commercial grapefruit industry in Florida before it became a national success.

The first grapefruit crop in Texas was planted in 1893. The fruit had been brought from Florida by Spanish missionaries a few years earlier and was distributed to local farmers in South Texas. What these farmers did not know is that the sub tropical climate and the fertile soil of the region made it one the best places on earth for growing grapefruit.

But once again, the grapefruit failed to impress the local population. That was until 1929 when the most popular mutation in the history of fruit was discovered in a small orchard. Before this time, all grapefruits were either pink or white, and both varieties were sour. But this new mutation had red flesh and it was much sweeter than its predecessors. The locals agreed.

Within five years the newly named “Ruby Red” had given birth to the great Texas Grapefruit industry. Shipments were sent all over the country by railroad and grapefruit quickly became America's favorite breakfast fruit, especially Ruby Red grapefruit.

How popular was Ruby Red grapefruit? It was so popular that farmers and scientists in Texas spend millions of dollars trying to breed redder and sweeter versions of the original Ruby. Some for the most popular ones include: the Rio Red, the Star Ruby and the March Ruby.

How popular were they? They were so popular that Texas officially eliminated the pink and white grapefruit in order to focus solely on the Ruby Red grapefruit.

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