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.