Mellow Pomelo


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Does size matter? When it comes to the citrus world, yes, it does. Members of the Rutaceae family, which includes oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes, calamansi and many more can all trace their lineage back to their granddaddy, the biggest and baddest member of the clan, the pomelo.

The pomelo is one of three of the original citrus cultivars that originated in the Himalayan foothills during the late Miocene epoch, the other two being mandarins and citron. And make no mistake, the pomelo is big, often thirty centimetres or more in diameter, and weighing up to two kilos, most of it rind and pith. The desirable juice is contained, as in all citrus fruit, in the small sacs or vesicles that comprise its many segments.


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Natural cross-breeding throughout the ages has given us many other familiar cultivars, many artificially bred to produce and isolate specific desirable qualities; lemons, limes, tangerines and so forth. Even so, the stately pomelo still rules the roost; its botanical name, Citrus Maxima providing a clue to its place in the pecking order.

But the pomelo is more than just a gene pool to be dipped into from time to time, as it is chock full of impressive health benefits  and has its own attractive characteristics that make it a go-to fruit in many parts of the world, especially in South Asian cuisine and areas whence it originated. As the fruit itself is characterized by a sweet and mellow flavour, it is often eaten as is, segmented and separated from its bitter membrane, sometimes dipped in a little salt, pressed for its juice or as a component in salads. The thick pith is discarded, as is the membrane that comprise the segments, as they are bitter and tough.


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The rind contains a fair amount of essential oil – as do the leaves and seeds – which is extracted in commercial operations and used in various applications like aromatherapy, as a hair and skin product and other mind and body wellness applications. And like many other citrus fruits, the rind is made into marmalades, and candied fruit, the sort you see in fruitcakes.


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The best way to peel a pomelo is to cut the top and bottom off, then make about eight slices around half an inch deep running from pole to pole. Peel the rind and pith back and you should have easy access to the fruit inside. The segments are separated by a bitter membrane so you will want to remove this before eating, the way you supreme a grapefruit. 

So after peeling and supreming your lovely pomelo, what are you going to do with it? Try just eating it as is, it is delicious and sweet, or use the segments wherever you might use other citrus fruits like orange or grapefruit, like in this beautiful and healthy pomelo salad with chile, lime, peanuts and coconut, a beautiful dish any time of year, and one that truly highlights this fantastic, original fruit.


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