National Geographic : 1951 Sep
The Aristocrat of the Breakfast Table AMERICA has given grapefruit to the world, although the grapefruit, like most of us living in America, traces its ancestry to other lands. In tracing the grapefruit, we must consider first the pummelo, or shaddock, Citrus grandis. The native home of the pummelo is not defi nitely known. The general abundance of trees indicates that it probably originated in the Malay Archipelago and neighboring islands as far east as the Fijis. The pummelo fruit is very large, often up to 8 inches in diameter. It has the color and general appearance of a very large, coarse, thick-skinned grapefruit. The membranes that enclose the segments are extremely tough. The tree is large for citrus, and a vigorous grower. The pummelo apparently reached Europe about the same time as did the lemon (by, or before, the middle of the 12th century). Known under the name "Adam's apple," it was grown mainly as a garden curiosity. There is no record that the Spanish took the pummelo to the New World. It was first recorded as being in the West Indies in 1696 by Hans Sloane, in a catalogue of plants of Jamaica. Its introduction there is credited to a Captain Shaddock, commander of an East Indian ship, who stopped at Barbados on his way to England and left seed of the pummelo there. Captain Shaddock not only introduced the fruit to the Americas but gave this ancestor of the grapefruit its generally known English name. First Known as "Forbidden Fruit" The grapefruit, so far as is known, origi nated in the West Indies, but the exact place or manner of its origin is unknown. It was first described in 1750 by Griffith Hughes, in his publication The Natural History of Bar bados, under the name "Forbidden fruit." A little later the forbidden fruit, or "smaller shaddock," was said to be "cultivated in most parts of the country (Barbados)." The name grapefruit originated in Jamaica, apparently either from a belief that the fruit resembled the grape in flavor, or from the fact that the fruit is frequently borne in clusters. The characteristics of the grapefruit sug gest that it might have come from a cross of the shaddock and the sweet orange. Its be havior in breeding or when grown from seed indicates, however, that it is not a hybrid. Its seed progeny is typically grapefruit, in stead of showing the characteristics of two parents. It seems most probable that the grapefruit originated as a mutation of the pummelo, or shaddock. Although grapefruit was described from Barbados in 1750, almost 100 years passed before it was introduced into Florida. Don Phillippe, a Spanish nobleman, planted trees at Safety Harbor, Florida, presumably from seed from the West Indies. The exact date of this planting is not known, but it is be lieved to have been about 1840. From these Phillippe trees and their seed progeny most of our grapefruit varieties have come. The grapefruit's rise in popularity-after a comparatively slow start-has been mete oric. For several decades after it was brought to Florida the grapefruit was hardly known outside the State. There were no shipments to northern markets until after 1880. At the turn of the century only a few thousand boxes a year were being produced; individual grapefruit were still something to be stared at in fruit shops and talked about when served at the table. Yet in 10 short years, by 1910, production had reached 1,000,000 boxes a year. It has grown steadily since, until today America pro duces some 50,000,000 boxes a year (about 80 pounds to a box). Today's cultivated grapefruit trees are highly productive. They grow from 15 to 25 feet high, and have dark green leaves; a single tree, when mature, may produce up to 1,500 pounds of fruit a year. End of the Seedy Core The grapefruit of the early years was seedy, but a tree producing nearly seedless fruit was discovered near Lakeland, Florida, and propagated about 1890. This tree was the start of the nearly seedless variety, Marsh, which is now the most widely grown kind. Still later, mutations having pink color in the flesh were found, some of them seedless, or nearly so. Today the pink-fleshed, seedless varieties command a premium on the fresh fruit markets. The State of Florida, cradle of grapefruit culture, still leads in the growing of this crop. Since 1925 there has been a great develop ment in grapefruit growing in the Rio Grande Valley in the extreme southern tip of Texas. Arizona and California also produce substan tial quantities. When the fruit became so popular in this country, other citrus-producing areas also be came interested in it, and today grapefruit is grown to some extent in all citrus-growing countries. Nowhere else, however, has it become as popular as in the United States. Grapefruit have been crossed with a number of other kinds of citrus. Crosses with tan gerine oranges have produced a new class of fruits called tangelos. These are usually juicy, rather thin-skinned fruits which peel easily and have a rich flavor.