Hello my dear readers,
Yellow, pink and red, what is it? It’s the grapefruit.
Due to its bitter taste, it is not loved by everyone, yet grapefruit is one of the main fruits of late winter.
Originating in the Central America and more precisely Jamaica and the Barbados Islands, but grown all over the world, the grapefruit plant is part of the Citrus genus and the Rutaceae family.
Rich in minerals and vitamins C, A, and B, grapefruit is a precious source of flavonoids and boasts important antioxidant and anticancer properties.
To develop at its best, this citrus fruit requires an almost subtropical hot climate where the temperature remains between 20 and 28 °C, a not too dry or windy climate and a sunny position.
In the centuries following its birth, this citrus fruit was increasingly appreciated and cultivated not only in its places of origin but also in the rest of the American continent, especially Florida and Texas; and subsequently in Asia, South Africa and Israel, which remains one of the main grapefruit producers.
Around the 90s, pink grapefruit was marketed in America, which is completely similar to the yellow grapefruit at least externally both in shape and in peel, but which inside contains a pink pulp, in fact, sweeter and juicier.
A little bit of Grapefruit history / Origins
The story says that the grapefruit plant was discovered around 1750 in the Barbados islands. It seems that it is the only fruit of the citrus family that does not originated in China.
It is said that the Jamaican citrus growers gave rise to a hybrid fruit, resulting from the grafting between oranges and pomelos, from which grapefruit was born, a bitter-tasting fruit that we know today.
It is assumed that the grapefruit arrived in Europe together with the sweet orange, right from the Far East along the Silk Road.
In Europe, however, it remained for several centuries a simple ornamental plant, while the consumption of the fruit seems to date back only to the nineteenth century.
Grapefruit is an evergreen tree 5 to 6 meters high, although it can reach 16 meters in height, with deep tap roots.
At the botanical level, grapefruit was not distinguished from pomelo (Citrus maxima) until 1830 when it was called Citrus paradisi, a denomination that was slightly modified in 1950 in Citrus x paradisi, its current botanical denomination.
Nowadays the theory according to which pomelos are the true original citrus, while the grapefruits are ancient hybrids (of pomelo and sweet orange) is accepted.
While the pomelo has transmitted the taste and juiciness, the orange has contributed with the smaller volume and the slightly flattened shape … and the result is the grapefruit, which retains the taste of the pomelo (which can weigh up to 10 kg) and the size of the orange or slightly bigger.
Grapefruit is grown in warm climate areas, especially in Israel and Algeria. Today it is grown in all parts of the world that have these climatic conditions.
In order to grow healthy and vigorously, the grapefruit plant requires the same climate as the citrus plants. Given its subtropical origins, they are grown in all those areas characterized by mild winters and without frosts.
The grapefruit fruit is available in the markets during the winter months and in early spring although today it is still available even out of season thanks to its import.
The grapefruit varieties
Today there are several grapefruit cultivars, different from each other depending on the degree of ripeness they reach, the colour of the pulp and the presence or absence of seeds.
The most common varieties of grapefruit are three: yellow or white grapefruit, pink grapefruit and red grapefruit.
The yellow grapefruit (Grapefruit Duncan) has a light coloured pulp and a very acid and strong bitter taste, it is rich in vitamins, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium. In general, this variety is mainly used in the food industry to make fresh juices. Particularly rich in seeds, this cultivar is very resistant to low winter temperatures, as well as for Marsh seedless varieties.
Pink grapefruit is one of the most popular grapefruit varieties as it is the sweetest tasting one. In fact, it is a hybrid derived from the fusion between a normal grapefruit and an orange in which there is a greater amount of fructose at the expense of vitamin C. On the other hand, however, this variety is richer in vitamin A, minerals and antioxidant substances.
Red grapefruit is similar in nutritional characteristics and properties and benefits to pink grapefruit. The colour is given by lycopene which, together with beta-carotene, makes this citrus a powerful antioxidant fruit suitable for protecting the body from cancer cells and oxidative stress.
Over the years, efforts have been made to obtain fruits from the tastiest grapefruit plant, so much so that new crosses such as mapo have emerged, resulting from the cross between mandarin and grapefruit, while in Jamaica, clementines were crossed with grapefruit to give rise to the ugli variety. The appearance is rather rough and ugly, the skin is very thick and lumpy but with a sweet taste.
Among the various types of grapefruit with pigmented pulp, some varieties stand out:
- Thompson or Pink Marsh,
- Star Ruby,
- Rio Red,
The latter has a greyish-green pulp very rich in seeds and the fruits of the plant grow, unlike the others, not in clusters but isolated.
All the characteristics of grapefruit and how to use it in the kitchen
In recent years, the many and precious properties of grapefruit have been rediscovered.
From a nutritional point of view, grapefruit is rich in vitamin C, iron, potassium and calcium. It is considered alkaline and is a good source of flavonoids, coumarins and terpenes, while the pink and red one also contains lycopene and carotene.
The friendly fruit of our diet
Grapefruit is a fruit friend of the line thanks to its reduced caloric intake. It is recommended in slimming diets, having few calories and performing a fat burning action.
A study published in 2006 found that the consumption of half fresh grapefruit taken before meals three times a day, for over 3 months, equivalent to the weight of 1.6 kg is able to reduce body weight and improve the insulin resistance, in obese subjects both with and without metabolic syndrome. In the group of patients with metabolic syndrome, there was a greater reduction in body weight than in the placebo group.
The consumption of grapefruits can be useful to accelerate digestive processes being rich in citric acid, a substance that stimulates the enzymes of digestion without causing acidity.
It is also rich in fiber and helps to increase the sense of satiety. There are diets based on grapefruits today, but it is always advisable to consult a doctor before following these dietary regimens.
Grapefruit has important draining properties, helping the body to reduce the absorption of sugar, fat and salt and also promotes the purification of the body.
Grapefruit is in fact rich in antioxidants that help the liver cleansing processes.
Phenolic compounds help the body to detoxify from carcinogens, while pectins could help reduce blood cholesterol levels and reduce plaques in the arteries. A specific flavonoid, naringin, is considered anti-inflammatory and spasmolytic.
Grapefruit can also be used for external use in the form of essential oil which, being stimulating, can be used with vegetable oils (almond oil, jojoba, wheat germ, coconut oil) as an oil to improve circulation.
In aromatherapy essential oil is a stimulant of the mood, makes you more cheerful and optimistic.
We can also add a few drops in a glass of water, for gum inflammation, against canker sores or bad breath problems.
As you know, the colour of fruit and vegetables is an important clue to vary the intake of precious substances, protecting health and covering our body’s need for nutrition. Each colour (red, green, white, yellow / orange and blue / purple) corresponds to specific substances, with different nourishing and protective actions.
For grapefruit the colour is yellow / orange. This colouring is due to the high quantities of beta-carotene, a substance belonging to the carotenoid family, which our body converts into vitamin A, essential for numerous body functions. Vitamin A, in fact, contributes to normal iron metabolism and to the maintenance of the skin, visual capacity and the function of the immune system in normal conditions. In general, beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant that is absorbed with fats and if taken with food does not cause an overdose, as can instead occur in the case of excessive use of supplements.
Use in the kitchen
Grapefruit has a very juicy pulp and a slightly bitter-acid taste.
Grapefruit can be used in the kitchen in case you want to raise the acidity level or balance the excessively sweet flavour of a dish.
Excellent sliced in salad, it is an ideal fruit in the summer season to give dishes freshness.
It also goes well with fish recipes, replacing other citrus fruits.
In general, the most common use in the kitchen of grapefruit is in the form of juice, ideal for starting the day with a good dose of Vitamin C.
Grapefruit is excellent also to eat it raw or to be used in the creation of sweet and sour recipes in the kitchen, such as the grapefruit risotto. Obviously, during cooking it loses most of its properties, but it can still be fun to prepare a menu entirely based on grapefruit.
How to store grapefruit
Grapefruits keep well at room temperature or in the refrigerator for longer, in the fruit and vegetable compartment.
Other uses of grapefruit
The portentous extract
From the seeds of the grapefruit and the membranes of the dehydrated fruit is extracted an essence that can be useful to counteract the formation of bacteria, viruses, molds, yeasts, fungi and to fight parasites. It is often used as a germicide, useful for disinfecting environments and water. It can be used to clean toilets and showers, simply by diluting a few drops of this essence in water.
It can also be used on house animals and plants, as a natural pesticide.
It seems to be useful in cases of cystitis, gingivitis, stomatitis, halitosis, acne, mycosis and for cooling diseases, but before using this extract to treat any pathologies of this type, it is always recommended to consult a specialist.
The essential oil
With the grapefruit essential oil, the virtues of this fruit can be exploited in the aesthetic field. For example, to have a firming and toning effect, you can add a few drops of grapefruit essential oil to any massage oil, taking advantage of its high concentration of Vitamin C, and massage in critical areas.
Excellent also added to face cream
Or you can create a natural scrub at home, adding the juice of half a grapefruit to two teaspoons of sugar and honey, and massage on the body.
It should always be remembered that grapefruit should be used with caution or even avoided if you are taking any medications, because it interacts with many of them; that is, it increases or decreases (depending on the drug) the bioavailability of the active ingredient, varying its pharmacokinetics.
Be especially careful if you use statin-based medicines to lower cholesterol levels, some sedatives, calcium channel blockers, often used for hypertension, and some antibiotics. If enzymes do not work in the liver in the correct way to metabolize these pharmacological substances, there is a risk of excessive and dangerous accumulation in the body, generating important problems that should not be underestimated.
- Taken together with caffeine (for example by adding a teaspoon of juice to a light coffee), grapefruit is an analgesic with good efficacy and few contraindications.
- From the grapefruit peel a perfumed oil with a toning action is obtained.
- Grapefruits usually weigh up to 500 grams, but a particular variety, the Israeli giant grapefruit, exceeds 2 kilos!
Do you like grapefruit? I do like it, but I always peel off the white membrane which I find it pretty bitter.
Thank you all for reading.
And if you would like to discover more about our food, you may enjoy my previous posts
Wish you a wonderful day!