Most believe grapefruit originated in the Caribbean islands, specifically Barbados, in the 1700s where it was known as the ‘forbidden fruit.’ In the next century, Scottish botanist James MacFayden was the first to study grapefruit scientifically, but mistakenly thought it was a spontaneous mutation of a pummelo, naming it Citrus paradisi in 1837. This botanical name was amended in 1948 to Citrus x paradisi after scientists agreed grapefruit was not a mutation but rather a hybrid between a pummelo and an orange.
Grapefruit trees can grow to a height of 20 feet or higher, depending on the age of the tree. 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 even state, the warmer the temperature, the shorter the flowering period.
References: Florida Department of Citrus, Purdue University, University of Florida/IFAS Extension, University of Illinois Extension.
TYPES, VARIETIES & CUTS
Grapefruit flesh varies in color from white to pink to vibrant red; some are sweet, some are tart, and others are bitter. Although there are many varieties, they are divided into two main groups: red/pink and white/yellow, and many have colorful names reflecting their flesh type: Flame, Ruby Red, Rio Red, Star, and Lavender Gem (red or pink); Duncan, Marsh, Melo Gold, Oroblanco, Triumph (white or yellow).
Nationwide, commercial grapefruit groves have continued to dwindle. Florida still dominates the U.S. industry, though acreage has fallen significantly in the last few decades. Texas and California produce the fruit as well, and South Korea is becoming an exporter of note.
References: Florida Department of Citrus, Purdue University, University of California.