The Chinese grapefruit, also known as the pomelo, Bali lemon, pummelo, pamplemousse, Limau besar, or Shaddock, is the largest of all edible citrus fruits. Native to Southeast Asia, this fruit has been cultivated for centuries in tropical and subtropical regions as a source of food. The flesh of the fruit is somewhat sweeter than a grapefruit, with a tangy undertaste in some varieties.
If allowed free rein, the Chinese grapefruit can grow larger than a basketball, with an extremely thick rind covering a segmented fruit. The skin can be green to yellow, with yellow to rosy flesh inside. As a general rule, the pinkish fleshed Chinese grapefruits tend to be more sweet, while the yellow flesh is more acidic and it can be dry. The fruits are eaten out of hand, just like many other citrus fruits, and they can also be juiced, added to preserves, and included in desserts. In some parts of Asia, the skin is candied as a treat.
In the 1700s, the Chinese grapefruit was brought to the West Indies by a Captain Shaddock, a British seafarer who thought that the fruit might grow well in the American tropics. He turned out to be correct, and contemporaries started calling it a grapefruit, in a reference to the clusters in which the fruit tended to grow. In modern usage, a grapefruit is a cross between the pomelo and an orange, and a tangelo is a cross between pomelos and tangerines.
The thick peel of a Chinese grapefruit requires some effort to penetrate, but some consumers feel it is worth the effort. Once the fruit has been peeled, the segments should be separated, and the thick white membrane between the segments should be discarded. After these steps, the Chinese grapefruit is perfectly fine to eat or use in a recipe. Some consumers prefer to taste a segment before preparing the rest, in case they have picked out a bad fruit.
Many grocers and Asian markets carry the Chinese grapefruit. Look for firm, plump specimens which feel heavy for their size, and have no soft spots or discolorations. The fruits keep for around one week under refrigeration, although they can dry out or get sour. People in warm climates which favor citrus can also try their hands at cultivating Chinese grapefruit at home.