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What Is A Pomelo? (And Why You Should Care)

It's sort of like a grapefruit, but sort of not.

If you haven't tried the tangy, pithy, sweet pomelo yet, then it's time you give it a squeeze. They're certainly are not the most well-known bunch in the citrus family, but they deserve some serious time in the lime light. Versatile and flavor-packed, this underrated fruit might be just what you're missing.

What is a pomelo?

The scientific name for a pomelo is Citrus maxima or Citrus grandis, which makes sense because it's the largest fruit in the citrus family. But don't get too excited. While they can grow up to a foot in diameter, most of that girth is bitter white pith—about one-half to three-quarters of an inch thick—lodged between the fruit's peel and the edible flesh. Round with a smooth grapefruit-like peel, pomelos can range in color from green to yellow to pale orange. Inside, the citrus's light yellow flesh is divided into juicy segments.

Where do pomelos grow?

Pomelos are native to southeast Asia. They grow in southern China, Thailand, India, Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Tahiti, and other tropical regions worldwide.

How do I peel a pomelo?

Cracking into a pomelo can be tricky considering its thick pith, but it's well worth the effort. (In some cultures, eating a pomelo is said to bring prosperity.) Start by slicing off the top and scoring through the pith, dividing the fruit into about six segments. Then, peel off the skin and pith to get to the flesh. Do your best to remove any of the white stuff—it has a bitter flavor. Now you can break the fruit into segments, as you might other citrus.

What do pomelos taste like?

There are several different varieties of pomelos, and they all vary slightly in flavor. But most have a taste similar to that of a grapefruit, with an intense tartness, sharp acidity, and a prevailing sweetness. But unlike grapefruit, pomelos are milder in flavor and less bitter. (Fun fact: Grapefruit is a cross between pomelo and sweet orange.)

What should I look for when shopping for a pomelo?

The honey pomelo, which has pale yellow skin and a gentle flavor, is one of the most common varieties of pomelo found in U.S. groceries. When picking one out, treat it like any other citrus. Feel for one that isn't too soft, has an unblemished exterior, and a shiny peel. You also want one that is heavy and has a grassy, floral scent, which is the best way to tell it's ripe.

How can I eat a pomelo?

A pomelo can be eaten much as you would a grapefruit. Start your day with an old school breakfast of broiled pomelo halves encrusted with sugar. Later, dice sweet segments into a basil-spiked salsa to crown a roasted halibut filet, or to place atop a bitter chicory salad splashed with tart red wine vinaigrette. Need a drink? Juice the flesh to add bracing acidity to cocktails like a sidecar or margarita. Don't sleep on pomelo at dessert, though: Get sweet with a pomelo pavlova or pomelo-infused buttermilk donuts.

Ready to give pomelos a whirl? There's no time like the present.

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