Most believe grapefruit originated in Barbados in the 1700s where it was known as the ‘forbidden fruit.’ In the next century, Scottish botanist James MacFayden mistakenly thought it was a pummelo mutation naming it Citrus paradisi in 1837. The name was amended in 1948 to Citrus x paradisi after scientists agreed it was a hybrid of a pummelo and an orange.
Grapefruit trees can grow to 20 feet or higher. Branches are covered with short thorns and trees grow well in warm, subtropical climates as temperature affects the flowering to fruit maturity timeline. Even within the same geographic area or state, the warmer the temperature, the shorter the flowering period.
Types & Varieties
Grapefruit flesh ranges from white to pink to red; some are sweet, some are tart, and others are bitter. Varieties are divided into two main groups: red/pink and white/yellow with names reflecting their flesh type: Flame, Ruby Red, Rio Red, Star, and Lavender Gem (red or pink); Duncan, Marsh, Melo Gold, Oroblanco, and Triumph (white or yellow).
Across the nation, commercial grapefruit groves continue to dwindle in both number and size. Florida, Texas and California are top producers; South Korea is becoming an exporter of note.
Dry, subtropical weather yields thicker, rough rinds and low juice; higher humidity produces more desirable fruit. Grapefruit is usually harvested fully ripe with shiny, smooth skin and a solid heft.