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What Does a Pomelo Fruit Taste Like?

Updated on June 19, 2013
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Top of a ripe pomelo fruit.Bottom of a ripe pomelo fruit.
Top of a ripe pomelo fruit.
Top of a ripe pomelo fruit. | Source
Bottom of a ripe pomelo fruit.
Bottom of a ripe pomelo fruit. | Source

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?

A 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 a 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. | Source

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. | Source
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. | Source

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.

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Pomelo Taste

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.

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The membrane between pomelo segments is very thick and bitter and should not be eaten.The thick opaque membrane that separates pomelo segments.
The membrane between pomelo segments is very thick and bitter and should not be eaten.
The membrane between pomelo segments is very thick and bitter and should not be eaten. | Source
The thick opaque membrane that separates pomelo segments.
The thick opaque membrane that separates pomelo segments. | Source

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.

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    • kohuether profile image

      Katherine Olga Tsoukalas 4 years ago from New Hampshire

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

    • Christy Kirwan profile image
      Author

      Christy Kirwan 4 years ago from San Francisco

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

    • Thundermama profile image

      Catherine Taylor 4 years ago from Canada

      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.

    • kohuether profile image

      Katherine Olga Tsoukalas 4 years ago from New Hampshire

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

    • Christy Kirwan profile image
      Author

      Christy Kirwan 4 years ago from San Francisco

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

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      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.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 4 years ago from Germany

      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;-)

    • Christy Kirwan profile image
      Author

      Christy Kirwan 4 years ago from San Francisco

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

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      Darja1981 3 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Rose 2 years ago

      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 :)

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