Growing up in suburban Minnesota, my ideas of citrus were limited to the occasional (and elusive) mandarin, grapefruit and the ever-present navel orange. With its thick skin and impossible pith, oranges were my least favorite fruit so I just assumed that I didn’t really like citrus.

So, when we moved to Arizona and Jim told me, “Just wait until you see the citrus!” I couldn’t have been less enthused. Between memories of my eye getting assaulted by a spray of orange oil mist to my grandfather always trying to push his morning grapefruit on me, I wasn’t feeling the love. Summer turned to fall turned to winter and one day I decided to see what a desert farmer’s market was like.

And I fell in love with citrus.

Diverse varieties of citrus are readily available around the country now, in conventional grocery stores and co-ops alike. Here’s a highlight of some of my favorites kinds, two of which happen to be citrus hybrids (you have to love that trees can mate!). Spring is on our heels, so check out some US grown citrus now while it’s still around!

Clockwise from left: A Pomelo, an Oro Blanco and a Minneola Tangelo


What is it?
A Pomelo, native to Southeast Asia
What does it taste like? They taste very citrusy and sweet, without the bitterness normally associated with grapefruit.

Pomelos tend to be much larger than your average grapefruit (think the size of a cantaloupe). They are often green on the outside, but depending on the variety may be lime-colored or yellow. Despite their size, they are quite light, due to much of their size being the very soft pith surrounding the fruit. Because of this, determining the ripeness is a bit tricker, as you want it to feel soft yet firm. Even with all that pith, with the help of a knife it’s not hard to peel a pomelo, although I like to rely on my grapefruit tools. The flesh is a very light, dusty pink and the pieces are very irregularly sized.

Oro Blanco

What is it? An Oro Blanco, which is a grapefruit/polemo hybrid
What does it taste like? Remember when you ate your first grapefruit and sprinkled on 2 tbsp. of sugar to cut the bitterness down? With the Oro Blanco, you won’t need the sugar to get that flavor.

Showcasing the thick pith of its parent the pumelo, the Oro Blanco looks like a large grapefruit and has a beautiful, soft yellow flesh. Again, like the pumelo, they might have less resistence to the touch as the pith is thick, but not very dense. Flatness on the bottom or sides is not uncommon. This is a great fruit for people who can’t quite tolerate the bitterness of grapefruit.

Minneola Tangelo

What is it?
A Minneola Tangelo, a hybrid of a tangerine and either pomelo or grapefruit
What does it taste like? A very juicy orange with a bit of tangerine tang

Tangelos win on several accounts of awesomeness: 1. They are incredibly easy to peel, simply push or twist off their signature “outie” and they peel as easily as a Clementine. 2. They are incredibly juicy, so grab a napkin. 3. They are being grown more and more domestically so not only are they easy to track down, the price is affordable, too.

Lesson learned- never judge a category of food based on a couple of duds. Imagine if the endless years of cafeteria Red Delicious (delicious? yuck!) apples had soured me on apples, how sad would that be?

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7 Responses to an ode to citrus

  1. Allysia says:

    Oh man! I just tried a tangelo a few weeks ago and they rocked my world! It segments perfectly and the flavor is gorgeous. And I agree with your sentiments on red delicious…somehow it’s always the popular one when you’re stuck in an airport or cafeteria, even though it’s clearly the nastiest one.

    • Kris says:

      Allysia- Aren’t tangelos so good!

      With all of the varieties of apples that are grown now, I’m honestly shocked anyone bothers to grow Red Delicious. I’ve never met someone who eats them voluntarily. Why eat a butter, mealy apple when you can have a tasty one?

  2. FoodFeud says:

    I tried a kale-grapefruit smoothie this morning, to which I added a bit of honey because it was too bitter. After reading this post, I went out and bought a minneola’s too cute not to with that little nub on top! I hope it’s a bit sweeter than the grapefruit this morning!

    • Kris says:

      Kale and grapefruit… wow you are daring! That definitely sounds tangy and bitter. You will love the tangelo, it’s much more sweet and will be very juicy.

  3. Courtney says:

    Hey, now…I am in MN and I have a huge pile of Tan­ge­los in my fruit basket as I write this, lol! And I have had both pomelos and oro blancos before. Tangelos are definitely my favorite of the 3, though! They may have to fly it in, which yes, I know is horrible for the environment, but we CAN get good citrus in MN too!


    • Kris says:

      Hey there, I wasn’t saying you can’t… but in 1996, in New Hope, at Cub Foods… it didn’t look too hot. :)

  4. Courtney says:

    OMG–I think I totally know which Cub in New Hope you are talking about, lol. How sad is that?!!?