The grapefruit (Citrus × paradisi) is a subtropical citrus tree known for its relatively large sour to semi-sweet, somewhat bitter fruit. Grapefruit is a citrus hybrid originating in Barbados as an accidental cross between two introduced species – sweet orange (C. sinensis), and pomelo (or shaddock) (C. maxima) – both of which were introduced from Asia in the seventeenth century. When found, it was nicknamed the “forbidden fruit”. Frequently, it is misidentified as the very similar parent species, pomelo.
The grape part of the name alludes to clusters of fruit on the tree that often appear similar to grape clusters. The interior flesh is segmented and varies in color from white to yellow to red to pink.
One story of the fruit’s origin is that a certain “Captain Shaddock” brought pomelo seeds to Jamaica and bred the first fruit, however, it probably originated as a naturally occurring hybrid between the two plants some time after they had been introduced there.
The grapefruit was brought to Florida by Count Odet Philippe in 1823 in what is now known as Safety Harbor. Further crosses have produced the tangelo (1905), the Minneola tangelo (1931), and the oroblanco (1984).
The grapefruit was known as the shaddock or shattuck until the nineteenth century. Its current name alludes to clusters of the fruit on the tree, which often appear similar to that of grapes. Botanically, it was not distinguished from the pomelo until the 1830s, when it was given the name Citrus paradisi. Its true origins were not determined until the 1940s. This led to the official name being altered to Citrus × paradisi, the “×” identifying its hybrid origin.