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?!!?