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Cocktail grapefruits are medium to large fruits, averaging 7 to 10 centimeters in diameter, and have a round to ovate shape with a flattened bottom on the non-stem end. The peel is thin, smooth, lightly pocked with tiny oil glands, and transitions from green to yellow with maturity. It is important to note that some green may remain on the peel when ripe, and the green coloring is not an indication of ripeness. The skin is easy-to-peel, revealing a thin layer of bitter, sour white pith. Underneath the pith, the flesh ranges in color from yellow to yellow-orange and is aqueous, tender, and divided into 12 to 13 segments by slender membranes. The flesh also encloses many cream-colored, oval seeds. Cocktail grapefruits are aromatic and contain low acidity, developing a sweet, subtly tart flavor with orange, floral, herbal, and fruity notes.
Cocktail grapefruits are available in the winter.
Cocktail grapefruits are a rare, hybrid variety belonging to the Rutaceae or citrus family. The fruits were developed in Riverside, California, in the mid-20th century and are a cross between the Siamese sweet pummelo and the frua mandarin. Both parent varieties of the Cocktail grapefruit have a complicated lineage of multiple, natural crosses, contributing to the fruit’s diverse, sweet, and tangy flavor. Cocktail grapefruits also have an unusual past, as the variety was never meant to be released commercially due to the fruit’s seedy flesh. The cultivar escaped from its breeding site and was introduced to public growers in Southern California, slowly expanding in popularity as a home garden variety. Cocktail grapefruits are also known as Mandelos, a name derived from a combination of pummelo and mandarin. Despite their grapefruit descriptor, these fruits are a citrus hybrid and are not true grapefruits. In the modern-day, Cocktail grapefruit trees are valued for their evergreen leaves, productive nature, long growing season, and ability to be cultivated from seed without the need for grating. The variety is not commercially grown on a large scale, but growers throughout California are beginning to offer the cultivar at farmer’s markets as a sweet alternative to grapefruit.
Cocktail grapefruits are an excellent source of fiber to regulate the digestive tract and provide high amounts of vitamin C, an antioxidant that reduces inflammation and strengthens the immune system. The fruits also contain some vitamin A to protect against vision loss and contribute lower amounts of calcium to protect bone and teeth growth.
Cocktail grapefruits are best suited for fresh applications as their sweet, subtly tart flavor is showcased when consumed out-of-hand. The flesh can be eaten with a spoon, removing the seeds, or it can be sliced and tossed into salads, used as a topping over desserts, or pressed, strained, and served as a refreshing juice. Cocktail grapefruit juice is popularly used in mixology as its flavor is milder than common grapefruit, providing a sweet taste without bitterness. The juice can also be incorporated into smoothies, sparkling water, and fruit punches. Beyond beverages, Cocktail grapefruit juice can be used as a flavoring in sauces, dressings, syrups, jams, jellies, and sorbets. The fruit’s peel can also be candied as a sweet snack, cooked into marmalade, or zested over main dishes to add a bright, fragrant flavor. Cocktail grapefruits pair well with herbs such as mint, cilantro, lavender, and parsley, honey, cinnamon, chocolate, aromatics such as ginger, lemongrass, and scallions, seafood, and meats such as poultry and turkey. Whole, unsliced Cocktail grapefruits will keep up to one week when stored at room temperature or 2 to 4 weeks when stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator's crisper drawer.
Cocktail grapefruits are a part of the University of California Riverside’s Citrus Variety Collection, one of the largest collections of citrus and citrus relatives in the world. The collection was established in 1910 by members of the Citrus Experiment Station in Riverside and was created to preserve and document important citrus varieties. The collection was also established to support the newly developing citrus industry in Southern California by contributing genetic material for continued research. The Citrus Experiment Station in Riverside was one of the few sites in the United States in the mid 20th century that was performing organized breeding experiments, and eventually, the program was incorporated into the University of Riverside when it was built. Cocktail grapefruits were developed through the Citrus Experiment Station and were an unofficial release, known initially as CRC 3555. Today the Citrus Variety Collection spans across 22 acres on the University of Riverside’s campus and features over 1,000 different varieties within the citrus genus.
Cocktail grapefruits were developed from natural crossbreeding at the Citrus Experiment Station in Riverside, a part of the University of California Riverside’s citrus breeding program. The variety was created sometime in the 1950s from a cross between hybridized varieties of a pummelo and mandarin. Despite the variety’s availability through commercial growers in the present-day, Cocktail grapefruits were never officially released from the breeding program. The variety escaped in the form of budwood and was planted in gardens of citrus enthusiasts. The cultivar was also never officially named, developing its common trade names of Cocktail grapefruit and Mandelo over time through distributors and growers. Today Cocktail grapefruits are specialty citrus commonly grown in home gardens throughout Southern California. Budwood for the variety can also be purchased through online nurseries and the Citrus Clonal Protection Program. Outside of California, some Cocktail grapefruit trees can be found in subtropical areas of Mexico and the Caribbean.
Recipes that include Cocktail Grapefruit. One is easiest, three is harder.