In 1993, the 73rd Legislature of the State of Texas designated the Texas red grapefruit as the official state fruit.I don’t know what took them so long—this gorgeous fruit has been brightening dreary winter days since it arrived in South Texas in the early 1900s.
It’s almost as if grapefruit was designed to be consumed during the long, cold days of mid-winter. They are packed with vitamins A and C and nutrients such as potassium. Eating grapefruit lowers blood cholesterol and boosts iron absorption. More importantly, grapefruits are pretty, and the citrus evokes happiness and memories of sunshine. The mesmerizing red hue comes from carotenoids, fat-soluble antioxidants with organic pigments that give the fruit a naturally appealing glow. That’s a hard-to-find quality in the throes of winter.
Florida may grow more grapefruit than Texas, but the Sunshine State’s harvest consists of the less tasty white-and-pink varieties that are mainly shipped off to juice factories. The red varieties from the Rio Grande Valley are naturally sweet and more pleasant to eat right out of the peel. We can thank A. E. Henninger, a citrus grower in McAllen, Texas, for them. In 1929, Henninger experimented with grafting plant varieties together until he developed what he felt to be the perfect grapefruit. Other citrus farmers took notice and followed his lead. Soon, boxes of Fawcett Red, Shary Red, and Curry Red were shipped from the Valley to markets all over Texas. Henninger smartly applied for a patent for his Ruby Red and was granted the first patent for a citrus fruit.
Buying grapefruit is easy. Look for yellow to gold skin with a rosy blush and choose one that is heavy for its size, an indication that it is juicy. If the skin is bumpy, put it back. Grapefruit will keep at room temperature for at least a week in a container with good air circulation. You can store them in the refrigerator for up to two months.
Aside from eating, there are many other uses for grapefruit. Tossing the pulp into a juicer will yield a delicious glass of tart, sweet liquid which is a great way to start the day—or the evening, if you add a couple ounces of vodka. Need to freshen the air in your house? Just simmer equal parts water and fresh grapefruit juice on the stove to create a natural citrus air freshener. Don’t discard the rinds; bag them and place near your fence or outdoor garden. Most animals roaming the neighborhood looking for herbs and plants to eat are repelled by the smell. Or you can bury the remains in your flower bed to boost the nutrients in your soil.
There are myriad recipes that incorporate grapefruit. The best ones are the simplest. I love to sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on top of a grapefruit half and stick it under the broiler until the sugar forms a crust. Winter greens tossed with sections of grapefruit and slices of avocado make a sassy side salad for a bowl of chili or a pot roast. The distinctive sweet-tart flavor is versatile. I’ve sampled grapefruit pound cakes, donuts, ice creams, and custards. I’ve made a seasonal sangria by plopping a scoop of homemade grapefruit sorbet in a pitcher of cold Prosecco and filling it to the top with chunks of fresh grapefruit and oranges. It’s slightly sweet, tart, and bubbly—the perfect pick-me-up after a long winter’s nap.