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What Does a Pomelo Fruit Taste Like?

I have a degree in ancient history and a passion for reading, cooking, DIY projects, tea, science fiction, and a myriad of other subjects.

I love trying new foods, and my home city of San Francisco is a great place to find all kinds of uncommon edible treats. I live near Mission St. where little Mexican produce markets are common. The fruits and veggies are usually ripe, fresh, delicious, and dirt cheap, so whenever I find a food I don't recognize, I try it out. This weekend I bought my first pomelo fruit.

What Is a Pomelo?

Pomelo fruit is the largest variety of citrus fruit in the world. It originated in South and Southeast Asia and is still very popular in Malaysian, Chinese, Cambodian, Thai, Vietnamese, Filipino, and Tahitian cuisine, among others. It is most closely related in appearance to grapefruit and can be successfully hybridized with other citrus fruits. The tangelo, for example, is a pomelo/tangerine cross, and the grapefruit is believed to have originated as a pomelo/orange hybrid.

Today, pomelos are still cultivated in Southeast Asia, but they also grow in India, parts of Africa, and Central and South America. They are harvested as an important cash crop in Malaysia, California, and Israel. Pomelos have become popular in many diverse cuisines worldwide.

Here's my hand for scale. Pomelo fruits are the largest variety of citrus.

Here's my hand for scale. Pomelo fruits are the largest variety of citrus.

Pomelo Appearance and Smell

Pomelo fruits are yellow or light green in appearance (mine is yellow), but the immense size is what I noticed first. My pomelo measures 6.5 inches in diameter, which is much larger than any other citrus fruit I've seen. For comparison, a standard soccer ball is about 8.5 inches in diameter.

The smell of the pomelo is not very strong, but when I held it to my face, I noticed an extremely bitter grapefruit scent. When I scraped the rind with my fingernail to release some of the oils, the scent became much more lemon-y and sweet.

The center of a pomelo.

The center of a pomelo.

The seeds of the pomelo are much smaller than lemon or orange seeds.

The seeds of the pomelo are much smaller than lemon or orange seeds.

Pomelo Fruit and Rind

When I tapped the pomelo with my knuckles, I noticed a hollow sound. The fruit also felt much lighter than it looked, and after slicing it open, I found out why. The pomelo rind was an entire inch thick and the actual fruit segments were much smaller than I expected. Like a grapefruit, the pomelo fruit segments can be yellow or pink. Mine were a beautiful rich pink. The juice sacs of the segments were quite large and could easily be separated with my fingers, unlike an orange, lemon, or lime. There were seeds in the fruit segments, but very small ones that can easily be discarded or eaten.

What Does a Pomelo Taste Like?

The pomelo fruit is surprisingly delicious. It tastes exactly like a grapefruit but without the bitterness or sour flavor. It isn't particularly sweet, nor is it tart. Apparently, the pink-centered pomelo fruits are supposed to be the more sour-tasting variety and the yellow-centered ones the sweeter variety. Even so, my pink-centered pomelo was mild and tasty. I don't like grapefruits, personally, but the lack of bitterness made this new fruit very good.

How to Eat a Pomelo

The rind and membranes between pomelo segments are both inedible parts of the fresh fruit (though the rind is sometimes shaved to flavor cooking or candied as a dessert). Be sure to remove them prior to consumption. One way of eating a pomelo is to peel the rind and membranes with your hands the same way you would peel an orange. A pomelo can also be cut into quarters or eighths and eaten with a spoon, just like a grapefruit. I chose the second method because the thick peel was difficult to remove with my fingers, and using a spoon was much less messy.

Questions & Answers

Question: How big is a pomelo?

Answer: The ones we get in California are about 8-12 inches in diameter; about the size of a volleyball. A lot of that volume is taken up by the very thick peel. The actual fruit inside is about the size of a typical grapefruit.

Comments

Angie on March 01, 2020:

I love pomelo……I had 5 pomelo trees …I put pomelo seeds and now they are trees full with fruits. I love the pomelo flower they are so pretty But But the fruits are so sour like lemons.I don’t know why they are so sour ???Can someone help me with a answer? Thank you

Kathie on January 21, 2020:

Saw these at my grocery store today. Had no idea what they were ... they resembled a very large grapefruit. They were $3.99 each. After seeing how little edible fruit is actually in them, I’m glad I passed on buying one. Very interesting write-up though.

Xy on October 23, 2018:

Hi. Were conducting a reseach about pomelo peel candy ! In terms of its texture how would you describe it?

Rose on February 14, 2015:

Your post about Pomelo is very informative. Thanks for this. I have eaten Pomelo many times. I sprinkle a little salt & mix lightly & it tastes more amazing...perfect for a sunny day :)

Darja1981 on March 28, 2013:

I have eat it only once and I can not even remember taste;)

Christy Kirwan (author) from San Francisco on March 13, 2013:

That sounds lovely, Thelma Alberts! It must be wonderful to have all those fresh fruits to eat and share. Thanks for the peeling tip!

Thelma Alberts from Germany and Philippines on March 12, 2013:

I love eating pomelo. In fact I have a pomelo tree in the garden which produces lots of fruits. You can peel the pomelo by peeling it around with a sharp knife like I do when I cut orange into fillets. Well, that´s how I do it. Thanks for sharing;-)

Mary Craig from New York on January 30, 2013:

I never heard of this fruit either but I must say your introduction to it is excellent. Your personal experience coupled with the great photographs make it interesting and enticing.

Voted up, useful, and interesting.

Christy Kirwan (author) from San Francisco on January 28, 2013:

Thanks, Thundermama, I hope you get to try one sometime. They're quite good!

Katherine Olga Tsoukalas from New Hampshire on January 28, 2013:

I would be interested to hear how it went! :-)

Catherine Taylor from Canada on January 28, 2013:

This was a great hub that introduced me to a fruit that I had never heard of before. You did a wonderful job describing how it smells and tastes, so much so that I want to try one. Alas I live in the depths of Canada and exotic citrus fruit is hard to come by at this time of year. Voted up and interesting.

Christy Kirwan (author) from San Francisco on January 28, 2013:

I've never tried that! This was my first ever pomelo. Next time I get one, I'll try it that way.

Katherine Olga Tsoukalas from New Hampshire on January 28, 2013:

I love these! Have you ever tried cutting it the other way and eating it like a grapefruit or is the membrane too thick?