What is a Pummelo…and what do I do with it?

Grocery Cashier: “Uhm…what is this??”

Me: It’s a pummelo.

Cashier (poking it): “Is it gross?

Me: No, it’s a citrus fruit!  It’s really delicious.  Like a grapefruit, but sweeter.

Bagger (16-year-old boy): “WHOA!  I’ve got to take one of those home!”

Anyhow.  If you are fortunate enough to find this gigantic fruit hiding out in the citrus section at your grocery store this winter, you really should add one (or three, if they have that many!) to your cart.  People might ask questions and the cashier might wrinkle up a skeptical face, but a juicy bowl of sweetly tangy, aromatic fruit will be yours in the end if you follow these simple directions.

The pummelo (also known as pomelo; though this name also applies to very different fruit than I have pictured) is an ancestor of the modern grapefruit.  It is native to Southern Asia and Malaysia, where it is highly prized.  Pummelo is now grown in California, USA.  Obviously, it has excellent nutritional value, but some sources I’ve browsed say that it can even be used to fight atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries), balance blood sugar, and control asthma.  I’m not a nutritionist, but I am at least qualified to tell you it’s delicious and good for you.

Don’t be fooled by the enormous appearance.  You will need to cut away at least an inch and a half of spongy pith to reach the rosy fruit, which itself is about the size of a softball.  The easiest way to get started is to cut about 1 1/2 inches down from the top and the bottom, until you start to see pink flesh.

You have just caught the first whiff of the incredible aroma that hides in the spongy pith.  A little fruity, a little floral…how I wish I could bottle this into a perfume!

Now take your knife (a long, serrated blade will serve you best) and cut down the sides in sections, going about an inch and a half deep again, right along the edges of the fruit like in the picture.  Take your time and let the fragrance of each slice fill your kitchen.  You don’t have to get it all on this first pass through.

Go back over it again, and this time remove all the remaining white spots until you see the pink fruit all over.  It’s not like an orange, where a little bit of the peel left on is just fine.  You really don’t want to eat this part.  At this point it is best to hold your fruit over a bowl to catch any juice that falls as you’re working your way around.

Now your pummelo is fully peeled, but unlike other citrus fruits, you can’t just tear it into wedges and eat it.  That’s because each wedge is covered in a tough, thick membrane.  You need to take your knife and section it.  If you’ve never sectioned a fruit before, simply hold your knife just in between the membrane and the fruit, and cut out a section of only the fruit between the membranes.  This takes a little practice and you have to be careful!  Let the wedges fall out into your bowl and work your way around until it’s all been cut.


See how thick the leftover membranes are?

There are still a great many juicy sacs left in them, so here’s what I do.  Squeeze with your hands, wring it out, and get alllllll that sweet juice in your bowl.  There will be quite a bit!

Finally, your pummelo is ready to enjoy.  It is absolutely delightful by itself, but you could try it in a winter fruit salad.  Here’s what I would suggest:

Jen’s Winter Fruit Salad

1 pummelo, sectioned and with juice

2 navel oranges, sectioned

2-3 sliced kiwis

1 cup sliced pineapple

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

Mix all the fruit and its juice together in an attractive glass bowl.  Chill until serving.  Sprinkle pomegranate seeds over salad.  (Add grapes and bananas if you like!)

Enjoy!  If this post was helpful to you please leave me a note in the comments telling me how you like your pummelo!  Oh, and, if you really don’t want to go through all the trouble of peeling and sectioning the fruit, just cut the pummelo in half and eat the sections out of it with a grapefruit spoon.  It provides you with a lovely natural bowl.

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7 Responses to What is a Pummelo…and what do I do with it?

  1. Karen says:

    I love your well-written piece, and you’ve fired me up to try this fruit next trip to the store!
    I’m looking forward to reading more!

  2. Braedan says:

    Very nice Jennifer! If I ever see one of these, I will likely purchase one now that I know what to do with it. Good luck on your new blogging journey.

  3. Marianne says:

    Well-written! Loved the step-by-step photos, too! Maybe I’ll be brave enough to try it, now! 🙂 Thanks, Jen! Good luck with your blog! You are off to a great start!

  4. Ann says:

    Thanks for expanding my fruit horizons and for sharing your helpful tips! I can’t wait to try it!

  5. jenstjohn says:

    Thanks for the feedback, everyone! I’m so happy to get comments! And yes, I recommend trying it. It really does smell heavenly.

  6. Amanda says:

    Never heard of it! Is it sweet or sort of sour like grapefruit?

    • jenstjohn says:

      It’s not exactly sweet, but not sour either. Like a fresh, mild, lightly sweet grapefruit. I don’t like grapefruit unless it’s mixed in a salad with sweeter fruits, but I love pummelo.

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