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The Grapefruit Generalities
Grapefruit is a citrus fruit called citrus x paradisi, since in the areas of origin it was once called a forbidden fruit; until a few decades ago it was believed that grapefruit was a species of citrus, subsequent studies have instead shown that it is a hybrid, between the pomelo (citrus maxima) and the orange (citrus x sinensis). It is a very particular citrus fruit, especially due to the fact that its birth took place quite recently, ie in the 1700s, and not in Asia, but in the Barbados Islands, where citrus fruit farmers hybridized the oranges cultivated in Jamaica with the pomelo, citrus fruit not very widespread and known. The result was a tree of medium size, which usually does not exceed 5-7m in height, evergreen, with lance-shaped leaves, dark green; in late spring and in summer it produces large white, fragrant flowers, gathered in cluster inflorescences, which can count numerous flowers. The flowers, in autumn and winter, are followed by fruits, large-sized esperides, roundish, slightly flattened, yellow when ripe. Grapefruits have a fairly thin skin but are characterized by a thick spongy albedo; the segments are divided by thick and leathery membranes, which are generally eaten; the fruit is very juicy and rich in pulp, with a sour and bitter taste. During the few centuries after the development of the first grapefruit, this citrus fruit spread in cultivation particularly in the American continent, and only later in Asia and Israel; in Italy grapefruits are little cultivated and have only been widespread on the market for some decades. Despite its short life, there are many varieties of grapefruit, which are increasingly diverging from the first, becoming increasingly orange in color, with an ever more sweet taste.
Grapefruit variety:Yellow grapefruit
Yellow or white grapefruit is the most typical example of grapefruit; today there are many varieties of yellow grapefruit, generally with a pronounced bitter taste. This type of grapefruit is widely used in the food industry, for the preparation of fresh or concentrated juices; for this reason, many of the new varieties of yellow grapefruit produce fruits of enormous dimensions, up to the weight of a couple of kilograms per single fruit. The new varieties for fresh consumption maintain the bitter taste, but tend to have a thinner peel and albedo. The newer varieties have a juicy, seedless, and slightly bitter pulp.
Pink or red grapefruit
Over the years, grapefruit producers have tried to improve the flavor of this fruit by crossing this hybrid with oranges, in order to obtain sweeter and juicy fruits, and with colored pulp, from salmon pink to typical dark orange of tarocco oranges. This type of hybridization has made the grapefruit a more widespread fruit, given that the sour and bitter taste of the typical grapefruit tends not to be appreciated by all. Some varieties produced in the United States are not the result of "natural" hybridization, but come from seeds and embryos that have been subjected to ionization, several tens of years ago. The pink and red grapefruits are very similar in shape to the yellow grapefruit, the differences are noticeable only with regard to the color and flavor of the pulp.
Given the success of pink and red grapefruits, grapefruits over the years have been bred with other citrus fruits; in Italy the mapo is widespread, or a cross between mandarin and grapefruit, which has given rise to large mandarins with orange pulp, which are edible and sweet even when the rind is still green, and retain a slightly bitter taste. In Jamaica we tried to hybridize the grapefruit with the clementines, giving rise to the hybrid ugli, an ugly grapefruit, with little albedo, but peel bigger than the pulp, and quite separate segments. The space that remains between the pulp and the peel causes a lumpy appearance of the fruits, because at every impact the peel falls back onto the pulp, leaving a depression.
Grapefruits have soil and climate requirements very similar to those of other citrus fruits; they are trees of subtropical origin, which prefer a warm and humid climate, and therefore in Italy they can be grown in the garden only in areas characterized by very mild winters, as these plants do not like frosts. This does not mean that they cannot bear short and mild frosts, but the presence of fruit on the tree in the middle of winter makes them very susceptible to frost, which in addition to ruining the apical areas of the branches, can compromise the harvest, even entirely. Grapefruit cultivations in Italy are present only in the islands and in the southern areas, where winter has a decidedly mild climate. These trees do not even like the very hot summer climate, especially due to the dryness of Italian summers; for this reason, if we decide to cultivate the grapefruit (in full earth or in pot it is) it is important to remember that they will need regular watering, especially in summer, to prevent the soil from remaining dry for a long time. The soil must be fertile, loose and very well drained, therefore it is advisable to mix it with sand or gravel substrate, in order to avoid the presence of stagnant water. If we live in areas with a very cold winter climate, we can grow grapefruit in pots, which will be stored in a cold greenhouse during the cold season. The fertilizations are supplied in autumn and spring, spreading a slow release granular fertilizer on the ground; throughout the summer, with grapefruits, foliar fertilizers are used, to be supplied by vaporizing them on the foliage during the coolest hours of the day. For our grapefruit we choose a very sunny position, and in any case sheltered from the cold wind; it could for example be indicated a flowerbed located south of the house, so that it enjoys many hours of sunshine, and at the same time of the protection given by the walls of the house.
The fruits of grapefruit
As we said, grapefruits are larger than oranges, contain a lot of juice, and have a sour and bitter taste; the modern grapefruit varieties have orange or pinkish flesh, definitely more sugary than that of the grapefruit that could be found on the market until about twenty years ago. Generally the segments are covered with a very leathery transparent film, which is difficult to chew; therefore, for practicality, instead of eating the grapefruit peeling it and dividing it into segments, it is usually cut in half and the juicy pulp is dug with special spoons; It is also possible to remove the segments, which must be carefully peeled before eating them. Grapefruit is not widely used in Italy in its fresh state, or rather, it is not consumed as much as other citrus fruits, such as oranges or mandarins; it is often used as a citrus juice, or it is used in salted salads, in order to exploit its not completely sugary taste.
The benefits of grapefruit
As with all citrus fruits, grapefruits are healthy and healthy fruits, rich in vitamin C; fiber content, mineral salts, water, vitamins, and not too much sugar makes them a fruit often recommended in diets; it is clear that we are talking about fresh grapefruits, not grapefruit juices, which often contain added sugar and preservatives. Scientific studies have shown a particularity of grapefruits: some polyphenols contained in the pulp have shown a strong interaction with some liver and intestinal enzymes: the consumption of grapefruit in association with many drugs causes the failure to metabolize these drugs, which therefore do not perform their functions . In particular it inhibits the metabolization of some chemotherapeutic drugs, and of cyclosporins; so if we love grapefruit juice, but we are forced to undergo a drug therapy, we ask our doctor if we can freely continue to drink our juice, or if instead we have to stop consumption during the treatment. There are many drugs that are metabolized by enzymes whose operation is inhibited by grapefruit juice, for example many contraceptives for oral use; it is therefore important to inform yourself carefully. In herbal medicine we find many products based on grapefruit seed extract; this product seems to be a panacea for all types of fungal diseases, especially as regards the fight against candida; this oil is also effective as an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, for diseases of the mouth and throat. It is found in capsules, but also as an essential oil, to be mixed with a fruit juice, as the taste is decidedly unpleasant.