February Featured Produce: Cocktail Grapefruit

CocktailGrapefruit_1One of the reasons many of us love going to the farmers markets is to discover tasty new food products, and the latest, greatest “foodie find” is the cocktail grapefruit. A friend and fellow market shopper turned me onto this delicious fruit when he offered me a sample of his cocktail grapefruit juice. One taste and I was hooked! It is sweet like orange juice, but with a hint of tartness that makes real grapefruit such as Ruby Red taste so darn good. My friend directed me to the Rancho Padre Farm booth and a moment later I was enjoying icy cold, fresh squeezed cocktail grapefruit juice that was unlike anything I’d ever tasted before.

Though cocktail grapefruit isn’t technically a grapefruit at all, it resembles it in size and color. It’s bigger than an orange but smaller than a Texas Ruby Red grapefruit, with a thick, spongy yellowish-green skin that is easy to peel. Originally called a Mandelo, it is a white fleshed, trigeneric citrus hybrid between Siamese sweet pommelo and the Frua mandarin (a cross between Dancy tangerine and King tangor). The University of California Riverside developed the fruit in the late 1950s. The new hybrid was not a commercial success due to its tenderness and high seed content. Although it was never officially approved for release, budwood (cuttings) made it into the public domain. Its unique flavor as well as its prolific nature and long growing season made it a popular Southern California backyard favorite, much like Meyer lemons. It’s unclear who originally coined the name “cocktail grapefruit,” but it stuck.

The sweetness comes from low acidity, and the grapefruit itself is very juicy and has lots of seeds, making it a perfect fruit for juicing. Similar to other citrus crops grown in California, the cocktail grapefruit reaches its production peak in early winter.

If you’re looking for a delicious fresh flavor to try in your smoothies (or cocktails!) hustle over to Rancho Padre’s booth at either the Aptos or MPC farmers markets. You’ll find fresh whole fruit available as well as bottled fresh-squeezed juice.

A word of caution — if you take prescription cholesterol lowering drugs, your doctor has probably warned you about avoiding grapefruit. Grapefruit contains furanocoumarins, which interferes with these drugs.

Photo Credit: Photo used with permission by Becky Wheeler, Fruitmaven.com