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What is a Pomelo?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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A pomelo is a large citrus fruit that grows throughout Southeast Asia and many islands of the South Pacific, including Tahiti and Fiji. Commercial exportation and trade has led to the fruit’s widespread availability around the world, and orchards in warmer climates from Florida to Australia can be found growing it; nevertheless, it remains most popular in Asian cultures and cuisines. It is perhaps best known in the West as one of the “parents” of the more common grapefruit: grapefruits are a hybrid made by crossing a pomelo with an orange.

”Pomelo” is also sometimes written pummelo or pommelo, depending on region. In some places the fruit is also known as a jabong; in the Caribbean, it is frequently referred to as a shaddock in reference to English naval captain Shaddock who is widely believed to have introduced the fruit to the islands from mainland Asia before bringing it home to England.

Physical Characteristics

The fruit is easily identifiable by its large pear shape and light green color. It grows on trees as any citrus does, but requires mature branches to sustain its large size: fully ripened, the fruit is often close to 12 inches (about 30 cm) across and can weigh up to 22 pounds (about 10 kg).

The rind is quite thick, but the fruit within is segmented like an orange or lemon and carries a pale pink color when fully ripe. The pith that surrounds the segments is generally considered too bitter to consume, though the fruit itself is often quite sweet. It can be sliced or broken into segments, and is usually eaten raw.

Eating and Cooking

Pomelo is a popular accompaniment to many Asian meals, and is particularly common alongside desserts. It is often drizzled in syrup, dipped in a salty broth, or used to top cakes and other confections; of course, it is also widely consumed on its own as a snack.

Innovative cooks have also found many uses for the thick rind. It is commonly boiled and used to flavor soups and stews, or pickled for use as a flavorful garnish. Simmering the rind in syrup yields a candy that is popular in many places, particularly when rolled in sugar or dipped in chocolate. The peel can also be used in marmalade.

Nutritional Information

Like most members of the citrus family, the fruit is very high in vitamin C. It is also a good source of dietary fiber, and is typically very low in sugar — which contributes to a generally low calorie count. The fruit also contains small amounts of calcium, magnesium, and potassium, all of which are essential to good health.

Cultivation

Pomelo trees prosper best in tropical or near tropical climates, which means that there are few that grow naturally very far north of the equator. Gardeners in the relatively mild climates of San Diego, California and parts of Florida have had good luck cultivating them, as have people with controlled greenhouses.

Like most citruses, the fruits ripen in winter. Widespread commercial growth and for-profit orchards in much of mainland Asia has meant that the fruits are often widely available around the world during the winter months; sometimes, thanks to cold storage technology, they are actually available year-round, though much of this depends on location.

Medicinal and Cosmetic Uses

Ancient alternative medical practices suggest that the fruit may have been used to calm seizures and coughs, and parts of the plant are still used for these purposes today. In some parts of Brazil, for instance, it is common for pharmacists to mix the bark and sap of the pomelo tree to make a thick cough syrup. Medical professionals in some Asian provinces may also apply a preparation of the tree’s wide leaves to skin swellings to cure rashes and ulcers.

The plant also carries a number of cosmetic uses. In Vietnam, people frequently gather the blooms of the pomelo to make perfume. The juices and essential oils from the fruit itself can also be added to soaps and lotions, and the seeds are often ground into a skin-cleansing exfoliating scrub.

Hybrids

The pomelo is relatively easy to cross-breed with other citrus fruits, which has led many horticulturists to experiment with different combinations — many of which are able to grow in a wider variety of climates. The grapefruit is one of the most common results, and comes from crossing the pomelo with a naval orange. The tangelo is also widely known, and comes from crossbreeding with a tangerine.

Medical Interaction Concerns and Precautions

The fruit’s relationship to the grapefruit is interesting trivia for most people, but can also have serious medical consequences for anyone taking prescription drugs that have negative interactions with grapefruit. Drug manufacturers in countries where pomelos are not common tend to list only grapefruit as a food to avoid, though the larger Asian relative is usually just as dangerous. Interactions are most common in medications containing carbamazepine, which is used to treat seizures and manic depression, however anyone who is concerned about a possible negative effect with any medication should talk to a medical professional before eating pomelo or drinking its juice.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon318053 — On Feb 05, 2013

Unless you let you let your house freeze you can grow a pomelo as a houseplant in Montana.

To the seller in China, please do not sell pomelos sprayed with cancer causing chemicals to the US. Happy New Year to you, though. --David H.

By anon312501 — On Jan 07, 2013

If you are not allowed to eat grapefruit, Pomelo is not good either. Pomelo has a very low calorie content and sugar content too; it's one of the healthiest fruits.

You don't have to cut the pomelo to eat. Just peel the thick skin,then peel the thin skin and just eat the gorgeous pulp bits of it, so delicious.

By anon304715 — On Nov 21, 2012

I have a pomelo tree. I just discovered it was not a grapefruit tree, as I thought. The fruit are huge, most bigger than my head.

I have counted 114 fruits on the tree this year (last year it only had six, and was the first year it actually even had blooms). I cannot possibly eat that many, and would like to sell them, but have no idea what to charge per pound. Any suggestions?

By anon255327 — On Mar 16, 2012

Must one avoid pomelo while taking cholesterol-lowering meds, like I have to avoid grapefruit?

By anon240236 — On Jan 13, 2012

I want to know if pomelos are crossed with any other fruit.

By anon156097 — On Feb 25, 2011

Wow! I was given a Pomelo as a gift from my Asian neighbors. I am so impressed with this fruit. I realized that there was such a thick skin on it. I removed the skin and set it aside. I put the sections of the fruit into the 'fridge to chill. I took the skin and white pulp and put it all into a saucepan to boil for 20 mins. I poured honey and a strawberry syrup with raisins on it in the saucepan and let it all cool. After this, I put this into a Magic Bullet and blended it well. I put this into small jars. This very tasty mixture is now added to my breakfast smoothies. It adds a "bit of zip" to my breakfast. ChemsTat in Calgary

By anon142047 — On Jan 12, 2011

My father and I just had gout attacks after having taking amounts of citrus juices for days since we had the flu. Other family members are fine with this high dosage of Vitamin C treatment for having the flu.

A year ago, I had my first gout attack after taking different kinds and amounts of mushrooms.

By anon121898 — On Oct 25, 2010

What is the smell of a pomelo? I have looked on almost every website but they never said anything about it.

By anon76121 — On Apr 09, 2010

I want to know how to sell my pomelos around the world. I am a fruit farmer with a big orchard from southeast of China (Pinghe,Fujian,China).

By anon66844 — On Feb 22, 2010

do you think pomelo peeling can repel mosquitoes?

By anon64711 — On Feb 08, 2010

does the pomelo require a male and a female plant to be able to produce fruit?

By anon63829 — On Feb 03, 2010

I cannot eat oranges as they cause excess mucus and much coughing as confirmed by Dr. Peter J. D'Adamo's "Eat Right For Your Type". ( Just as bad as dairy products.) But I can comfortably eat grapefruit so when my Chinese partner gave me a pomelo I was a little apprehensive. No problem. It must be because a pomelo is so closely related to grapefruit. --Tea At 4pm

By anon63596 — On Feb 02, 2010

To Julie Fisico and Mnguyendh: If you had actually read the entire article, you would have your answer as it's in the last sentence. Grapefruit are derived from Pomelo as a Pomelo-Orange cross. Therefore, they would both need to be on your restricted food list.

For the person actually taking Allopurinol and consuming Pomelo, seeking the advice of people on the internet was/is a better choice than asking your doctor. What could he possibly know about your medication? It's no surprise you had a breakthrough attack when you negate your medications efficacy by not following directions.

By anon62081 — On Jan 24, 2010

what is the phytochemical analysis of pomelo peeling?

By anon38553 — On Jul 27, 2009

What are components of pomelo skins?

By mnguyendh — On Apr 15, 2009

I am also very interested in the answer to julie fisico's question .

I have been on allopurinol since my first serious gout attack in early February of this year and I have been drinking a glass of pomelo juice and eating pomelo daily since then. To my disappointment, I had my second attack last week, so the question is whether pomelo eating inhibits allopurinol effects?

By anon25896 — On Feb 05, 2009

What is the answer to juliefisico's question? I want to know the answer. Is pomelo not good if taking allopurinol?

By anon24223 — On Jan 09, 2009

What is the proximate analysis of a pomelo?

By anon23030 — On Dec 15, 2008

how do you cut a pomelo?

By anon21465 — On Nov 17, 2008

does pomelo contain tannin?

By anon21120 — On Nov 10, 2008

is it possible to grow a young pomelo as a houseplant in montana, if not is it possible to grow a pomelo in montana?

By catapult43 — On Oct 23, 2008

Pomelo is low in calories, only about 60 calories for a 5 ounces of pomelo, and loaded with vitamin C.

By anon18542 — On Sep 25, 2008

can pomelo prevent ringworm?

By WGwriter — On Apr 03, 2008

Good question Julie,

I think to be on the safe side you should talk to the doctor about whether pomelos are safe to consume if you are on any medication that warns you against eating grapefruit.

Hope that helps,

T Christensen

By juliefisico — On Apr 02, 2008

If I am not allowed to have grapefruit because I am on gout medication, can I have pomelo???

By TexasPomelo — On Dec 18, 2007

I am looking to buy any variety of pomelo. Would someone please direct me to the appropriate nursery? Thank you in advance.

Texas Pomelo

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia...
Learn more
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