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What is a Pummelo?

By S. N. Smith
Updated May 16, 2024
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The pummelo (Citrus maxima) — known also as the pomelo, the shaddock, the French chadec, the Malayan limau besar, the Bali lemon, and the Chinese grapefruit — has the distinction of being the largest citrus fruit. It is, essentially, a kindler, gentler, giant cousin of the grapefruit. The flavor is similar but milder, and it is actually believed to be a forebear of the modern grapefruit.

This fruit is native to Malaysia and Southeast Asia. Seeds were introduced to the West Indies by the seafaring English Captain Shaddock, who lent his name to the fruit. Today, it is cultivated in Malaysia still, as well as China, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, India, Indonesia, Israel, California, and Florida.

The tree that bears this fruit is fairly tall, particularly for a citrus tree, ranging from 16 to 50 feet (5 to 15 m) in height. The leaves are leathery and dark green, averaging 5 inches (12.5 cm) long and 2.5 inches (6 cm) wide. The trees produce large, fragrant white flowers.

The pummelo requires significant heat to sweeten, and therefore does best in a tropical or subtropical climate. It prefers sandy, well-drained soil and dislikes having wet roots. Some popular cultivars are the Chandler, which was developed in California in the 1960s; the Hirado, a favorite Japanese variety; and the Kao Pan, from Thailand.

The fruit is round to slightly pear shaped, and it may grow to a diameter of 12 inches (30 cm) or more and attain a weight of 20 to 22 pounds (9 to 10 kg). The easy-to-peel greenish yellow rind is thick and contains a dense layer of spongy pith. The flesh, divided into about 16 to 18 segments, varies from a pale straw color to pink to deep rose. Some pummelos contain an excess of seeds and others are nearly seedless.

The flavor of the pummelo is like that of a mild, less bitter grapefruit, and it is generally quite sweet. The fruit can be enjoyed in any way the grapefruit can. If the segments are eaten raw, the membrane is usually removed from them prior to eating, as it can be quite tough. The peel is sometimes used to make marmalade, and in Chinese cuisine, it is frequently candied or used in dishes as a flavoring agent.

One third of a medium-sized fruit (approximately 1 cup, or 190 g) contains about 75 calories. Pummelos are an excellent source of antioxidant flavonoids, a good source of potassium, and each serving will provide about twice the daily recommended amount of vitamin C.

When choosing a pummelo at the market, consumers should look for a fruit that is blemish-free, feels substantial in the hand, shows no withering, and has a pleasant citrusy aroma. It should be stored at room temperature for three to five days, and it will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

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Discussion Comments

By anon338171 — On Jun 11, 2013

Grapefruit can improve your cholesterol as it did mine. I would recommend fresh grapefruit for the best results.--


By Mykol — On Nov 13, 2012

I eat pummelo just like I do grapefruit and like to put a little bit of honey on it instead of sugar. I am just wondering if this is grown anywhere in the United States or if all the pummelo has to be shipped in from other countries?

By honeybees — On Nov 12, 2012

I don't see pummelo very often at the grocery store, but also feel like they are very expensive. I have only bought a pummelo one time and really loved the slightly sweet taste. It was much larger than a grapefruit but no where near 20 pounds. I haven't bought another one because they are too expensive for the amount of fruit you get.

I think the best pummelo would be from the tropics where they are grown and picked ripe from the tree.

By ysmina — On Nov 01, 2012

I have about a dozen pummelo grapefruits, what can I do with them? Anyone know any dessert recipes with pummelo?

By fBoyle — On Oct 31, 2012
Pummelo is delicious, juicy and sweet, but it's kind of expensive and I feel like I don't get enough for my money.

Whenever I buy a pummelo, I am shocked at the thickness of the rind. When peeled, the actual fruit only makes up one-third of the whole thing. Most of it is the spongy rind which I throw away. I know some people make jam and other stuff out of it but I don't know how.

That's why I rarely by pummelos even though I do enjoy them.

By serenesurface — On Oct 30, 2012

For those asking if they can eat pummelo while taking medications, you should consult your doctor.

I have never eaten pummelo so I cannot comment on this. However, I was told by my doctor to avoid grapefruit while taking medication for high blood pressure. My doctor said that grapefruit raises blood pressure.

Pummelo is related to grapefruit, so there is a chance that it has a similar affect. It's probably a good idea to avoid it unless your doctor specifically tells you that you can have it. It's better to be safe than sorry.

By anon61135 — On Jan 18, 2010

Should pummelos be avoided when taking Coumadin?

By anon58749 — On Jan 04, 2010

Does Pummelo fruit contain high amounts of Vitamin K? Which might interfere with taking Coumadin?

By anon51280 — On Nov 04, 2009

I'm on a cholesterol reducing drug that prohibits eating grapefruit. Can I eat pummelo?

By rjsenter — On Mar 11, 2009

Can I eat this fruit while taking cholesterol lowering medication?

By anon26118 — On Feb 08, 2009

I take cholesterol lowering drugs and I found the pummelo at the store. I purchased one and found that it tastes a lot like grapefruit, which I love, but can't have anymore.

I need to know if I can eat the pummelo and not affect my cholesterol medicine.

By nycjo — On Jan 05, 2009

Does this fruit (Pummelo) have same restrictions as Grapefruit when taking Simvastatin (which is a Cholesterol lowering Drug)?

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