What is a pomelo? I first heard about this fruit a few years ago, which led me to try it and even grow it in my garden. That’s my first crop of pomelos I’m holding in the photo below. The more I learn about these sweet-tart fruits, the more fascinated I become. I had no idea that pomelos were so diverse, nor that they are a close relative of the grapefruit. Like grapefruit, pomelos can vary in color from green, pink, or yellow but, unlike their cousin, they can grow to the size of small bowling balls. When comparing tastes, the pomelo has a variety of flavors, ranging from sweet to sour and tangy to tart, which makes this fruit astoundingly versatile in the kitchen.
The pomelo is native to China and Southeast Asia and has grown there for over 4,000 years. It’s considered a symbol of prosperity for the Chinese Lunar New Year, and it’s easy to see why—when you dig through its fragrant skin and thick membrane, you uncover a fresh, jewel-like fruit treasure. The fruit has other uses as well: the tree leaves and flowers are used as traditional Chinese medicines to cure upset stomachs, treat excessive thirst, and aid with bronchitis symptoms.
Another alias for the pomelo is “Shaddock”, named after the English captain who brought pomelo plants to the West Indies in the 17th century. It was there that the pomelo tree cross-bred with the sweet orange tree to create the grapefruit. Due to the suitable climate, the grapefruit prospered and became the Western culture’s version of pomelos. The common orange and mandarin are also thought to be relatives of the pomelo.
There are many nutritional benefits for consuming pomelos, as they are an excellent source of vitamin C, potassium, fiber, and limonene, a phytochemical which has antioxidant effects. According to a 2010 study by at the Institute of Nutrition, Mahidol University, Thailand, pomelos are a better source of flavonoids (a group of phytochemicals) than a number of other tropical fruits, including guava, durian and papaya. Flavonoids have been shown to help anti-oxidative activity, increase free-radical scavenging capacity, help prevent coronary heart disease, and slow anticancer activity. Flavonoids are found in many fruits and vegetables, which is one reason why nutrition experts recommend consuming at least six servings of them daily to obtain all of the nutritional benefits that they offer.
Pomelos are extremely versatile in the kitchen, due to their unique flavor and texture. They pair well with herbs, such as mint, cilantro, and basil; fruits, like pineapple, coconut, and mango; and spring vegetables, including carrots, radishes, and onions. Heat can make the pomelo bitter, but you can add this fruit to hot dishes at the end of cooking. Try pomelo in savory dishes that usually call for lemon. Though heat can make it bitter, you can use pomelo in baking because the sugar will cut out bitterness. Please note that pomelos keep for up to a week at room temperature and about two weeks in the refrigerator. Once peeled, they should be eaten immediately or the fruit will dry out.
As you can see, there are many different ways to use pomelos. In fact, if you already have a recipe for grapefruit, just swap it for pomelo. Try using pomelo in this recipe for Grapefruit and Avocado Salad with Lemon Cumin Vinaigrette. For your added enjoyment, I’ve included a fantastic salad recipe to satisfy your palate. It’s sure to be a major hit with anyone who tries it, so the next time you’re in the mood to experiment with something new and adventurous, look no further than the pomelo. There’s something about it that will leave your whole family wanting more!