Grateful for Grapefruit

January 18th, 2010


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by Kerry Trueman

Today, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I want to state unequivocally that discrimination on the basis of color is never, ever acceptable–unless we’re talking about the respective merits of white grapefruits versus pink or red. The pink and red varieties are not only more nutritious, they taste better, too. It’s no accident that the red grapefruit is the official state fruit of Texas, where the white grapefruit’s been all but banished.

Of course, all varieties of grapefruit are rich in vitamin C and fiber. But the pink and red ones have antioxidants that the white ones lack, and the deeper the color, the sweeter the flavor. In fact, white grapefruits (which are actually yellow, by the way) were never terribly popular. It wasn’t until the Ruby Red grapefruit was patented in 1929 that the grapefruit industry really took off in this country.

The Ruby Red is best known for its outstanding flavor, but there’s something else distinctive about this variety; it’s a radiated mutant, the result of a collaboration between man and nature.

I know, it sounds kind of scary, but fear not! The red grapefruits we enjoy today are not radiated; rather, they’re the offspring of this variety. We’re talking about an old-school style of plant breeding that’s unrelated to the genetically modified Frankenfoods that understandably freak a lot of us out.

Scientists simply took the first Ruby Red, which was a naturally occurring mutant of a pink grapefruit, and zapped it with radiation, which enabled it to consistently retain its red tones. As the New York Times explains, “The process leaves no residual radiation or other obvious marks of human intervention. It simply creates offspring that exhibit new characteristics.”

So don’t hesitate to give red grapefruits the green light in your kitchen. They go nicely with avocado or fennel and red onions on a bed of greens such as watercress, spinach, and arugula. You can use them to make a deliciously citrus-y salsa, too.

For simplicity, you can’t beat a plain ol’ grapefruit sliced in two and savored with a serrated spoon. But you could start your day in a more exotic way with a slice or two of Grapefruit Pecan Bread. Why not end it with an easy no-bake grapefruit cheesecake, too? This vitamin-packed, refreshingly sweet-tart fruit may be a staple of the breakfast club, but it deserves an invitation to lunch and dinner, too.