It’s wintertime in 2012 in Florida. The citrus grove stands are crowded with snowbirds and resident senior citizens, though potassium limits can be a concern in advanced age. Grapefruit, as well as oranges, can also interfere with crucial medications. Unphased, they are flocking into grove stores for Clementines, Navels, Honeybells, Tangerines, Valencias, Temples, Citrines, Meyer Lemons, Red Grapefruit and White Grapefruit.
Many people of any age are not aware that grapefruit is a relatively young fruit in the United States. One theory is it is a cross between the Pummelo, a Malaysian and Indonesian fruit, and an orange which occurred around the year 1750 in the West Indies. This fruit-cross did not appear in the U.S. until the 1820s when a Count Odette Phillipe brought its seeds from the Bahamas to Safety Harbor, near St. Petersburg in Florida.
The seeds grew well in this climate but were not well received. After a few years, however, a grower in Orange County started growing the new fruit seriously, and, in time, he was successful. In 1885 he shipped a load of them to New York where it was well received.
By 1910 grapefruit were being grown in Texas, Arizona and California and in several varieties named Duncan, Foster, Marsh, Oroblanco, Paradise Navel, Redblush, Star Ruby, Rio Red, Ruby Sweet, Sweetie, Thompson, and Triumph.
This citrus spin-off evolved from its first temporary name of “Forbidden Fruit” to “Grapefruit,” because of its tendency to grow in clusters like grapes. Not so widely circulated is the story that early devotees of the fruit poured a little grape juice over the fruit to make its flavor more interesting and came to call it “Grapefruit.”
The new fruit rapidly found itself cut in half and topped with sugar or honey with accents of cinnamon, clove or nutmeg. It was popular at breakfast also as an dinner appetizer during a time when appetizers were very plain. Other uses were in punch, sorbet, salads, salad dressings, spritzers, fruit cocktails, marmalade and candied peel. Grapefruit liqueurs and beer were also developed.
Like any new food in a country, many things take off. Grapefruit spoons became popular. Some were dressy and filigreed, made from sterling silver. They were characterized by their long, narrow, deep bowl shape, well suited to scooping pre-loosened grapefruit sections. Utensil-type grapefruit spoons became popular, too. They were general in shape but had a serrated tip for loosening the fruit’s segments.
Medicinal claims stated grapefruit derivitives helpful for fungals, insomnia, cardiac troubles, digestive disorders, as a helpful diuretic, acne and a lowering agent for cholesterol. Aroma therapists recommended grapefruit’s scent as a relaxer and easer of stress. There was also the famed grapefruit diet where pounds were supposed to literally “burn off” with directed consumption of a lot of grapefruit juice.
Grapefruit contines to be popular with some and not at all popular with others.