Citrus Paradisi. . . It was a 17th century English sea captain, known simply as Captain Shaddock, who brought the pomelo to the Caribbean from Southeast Asia. Evidently, he fell into temptation at the knees of this lovely citrus during his travels through the Malay Archipelago. And what a sight he must have seen: large, juicy globes dangling from the boughs of trees growing wild on riverbanks.
After Shaddock’s carriage of the seed, a natural mystery happened. The pomelo, now known as the shaddock, crossed paths with the orange and became a grapefruit. The grapefruit was first described in botanical writings in 1750 by the Welsh Reverend Griffith Hughes who called it the "forbidden fruit" of Barbados. Who knows why he called it the “forbidden fruit.” Perhaps, quite simply, he’d never dared imagine a fruit of such colossal size. By the end of the 18th century, the grapefruit had made its home throughout the region. In 1789, Patrick Browne reported it as growing in most parts of Jamaica and he also referred to it as "forbidden fruit" or "smaller shaddock." The shaddock, or pomelo, still grows in the tropics to the fantastic size of 30cm in diameter and weighing as much as 10 kilos. Like the grapefruit, the pulp colour can vary from pale yellow, pink or red, but unlike the grapefruit, the taste is mild and just-this-side of sweet.
Today, no longer “forbidden,” grapefruit is a widely used aromatherapy oil, chosen for its uplifting, therapeutic qualities. Its characteristically fresh, yellow-green scent makes it the perfect complement in aromatic blends.
Pomelo is still a popular citrus in Asia, especially in China where the fruit is considered auspicious: the word ‘pomelo’ is homophonous with the word for ‘blessing’. A conundrum, then, that it was the source of the “forbidden” grapefruit.
Photo: A scene from Singapore's Chinatown market during the Autumn festival. Honey pomelos are incredibly popular during this season for their auspicious sweetness and prosperous size.