The pomelo (Citrus maxima or Citrus grandis) is a crisp citrus fruit native to South and Southeast Asia.
It is usually pale green to yellow when ripe, with sweet white (or, more rarely, pink or red) flesh and very thick albedo (rind pith). It is the largest citrus fruit, 15–25 centimetres in diameter, and usually weighing 1–2 kilograms. Other spellings for pomelo include pummelo, and pommelo.
The pomelo tastes like a sweet, mild grapefruit (which is itself a hybrid of the pomelo and the orange), though the typical pomelo is much larger in size than the grapefruit. It has very little, or none, of the common grapefruit’s bitterness, but the enveloping membranous material around the segments is bitter, considered inedible, and thus usually is discarded.
The thick skin of pomelo is ideal for candied rind which turns out beautifully soft and luscious. The peel is also used to make marmalade.
Pomelos can be purchased at most Asian markets and sometimes in regular supermarkets and grocery store chains, depending on where you live. Pomelos are sweeter and milder than grapefruit, and often juicer, plus very low in calories.
Pomelo is considered to be ‘king of the citrus fruit kingdom’ for its sheer size: some varieties are the size of a small basketball, while others appear like an enormous grapefruit. Pomelos also vary in colour, from dark green on the outside to a coral-orange colour and sometimes even yellow. The skin can be very thick (up to 5cm), or thinner depending on the hybrid. Some come to a peak on top (where the stem joins the tree), while others are completely round. The inner fruit ranges in colour from white to pink.
Nutrition / Calories
Like other citrus fruit, pomelos are high in vitamin C (one serving of 1 to 1½ cups gives you more than your recommended intake of vitamin C). Pomelos also contain iron, dietary fibre, and protein, yet pomelo is very low in calories: 100 grams = 38 calories, according to the USDA Database for Standard Reference (Pomelo Calorie Information). This makes it the perfect diet food!
Pomelos are grown in Thailand (where it is known as ‘sum-oh’) and throughout Southeast Asia as well as in Mexico (‘toronja’ in Spanish) and California.
Hold the pomelo on its side. With a sharp knife, slice off the stem end to create a flat top on the pomelo.
Now score the pomelo by slicing downward through the skin (you may have to cut deeply in order to get through the outer peel, which can be up to several centimetres thick). Make similar cuts all around the outside of the pomelo, as shown in the photo. Then peel the skin back (like peeling a banana).
Peeled and Prepared
Completely remove the pomelo from its outer peel and discard. Now you have a choice: either peel off all the white skin from the whole pomelo, or break it apart first by pressing your thumb into the top and pulling down on the sides. You can now break it into sections and remove from the white peel from each section (at this stage it is like preparing an orange – use whichever method you prefer).
Serve or Use In Cooking
Break the pomelo into sections, removing as much of the bitter white peel as possible. Note that the fruit may range in colour from white to pink depending on the variety you have purchased. Your pomelo is now ready to be eaten fresh, or used in your cooking. In Thailand, fresh pomelo is often eaten with just a little salt and chili sprinkled over.
- To make pomelo into a beautiful salad: see our Thai Pomelo Salad recipe.
- For a sweet treat: see our Candied Pomelo Rind recipe.
- Try topping your breakfast toast off with something different: see our Pomelo Marmalade recipe.
Pomelo in Ethnic Cuisines
The pomelo is native to Southeast Asia and is known there under a wide variety of names.
In Vietnam, two particularly well-known varieties are cultivated; one called bưởi Năm Roi in the Trà Ôn district of Vinh Long Province of the Mekong Delta region, and one called bưởi da xanh in Ben Tre Province.
In the Philippines, the fruit is known as the sujâ, or lukban, and is eaten as a dessert or snack. The pomelo, cut into wedges, is dipped in salt before it is eaten. The Philippine variety is usually red on the inside, and has more juice than other varieties, making it ideal for hiking. Pomelo juices and pomelo-flavoured juice drink mixes are also common.
In Thailand, the fruit is called som-o (Thai: ส้มโอ), and is eaten raw, usually dipped into a salt, sugar and chilli pepper mixture. It can also be used in Thai salads, such as yam som-o.
In Sri Lanka, this is called jambola in Sinhalese.
In Nepal, the fruit is called Phokse and also bhogate (भोगटे) and is often eaten raw by sprinkling salt and pepper or in a salad form by marinating it in yoghurt, sometimes mixed with other fruits such as tangerine, concentrated lime juice known as chuk amilo , salt, chilli, sugar, and other spices.
In Malay and Indonesian, the pomelo is known as limau or jeruk bali (“Balinese lime/orange”) after the island of Bali. The town of Tambun in Perak, Malaysia is famous for pomelos. The two varieties are a sweet kind, which has white flesh, and a sour kind, which has pinkish flesh and is more likely to be used as an altar decoration than actually eaten. Pomelos are a must during the mid-autumn festival or mooncake festival; they are normally eaten fresh.
In Chinese, the fruit is known as yòuzi (柚子), although the same Chinese characters can also be used for the yuzu, a different species. The Japanese refer to the pomelo as buntan or zabon, apparently both derived from the name of Cantonese captain 谢文旦, read Sha Buntan in Japanese, who is said to have introduced the cultivation of the fruit to Japan in the An’ei era (1772–1781). The Chinese use pomelo leaves in a ritual bath, which they believe helps to cleanse a person and repel evil.
In Bangladesh and West Bengal, pomelo is known as a jambura (জাম্বুরা) or batabi lebu (বাতাবি লেবু). Unlike the Malaysian variety, the white-fleshed jambura is sour and the pink-fleshed jambura is sweet in this region.
In North India it is known as Chakodra in Hindi.
It is also known as the sai-seh’ (elephant grapefruit) among the Kuki people and Zou tribes in Manipur and Chin states of Myanmar (Burma). In Assam, it is known as robab tenga (ৰবাব টেঙা in Assamese). It is a popular after-lunch snack once it is sprinkled with salt and sliced chillies. In rural areas, children often use it as a football.
In Garohills, Meghalaya, it is known as chambil. The fruit is eaten raw with salt and chilli (kari-jalik teke). It is also used for making pickles. During Wangala or harvest dance, a move called chambil moa or “shaking the pomelo” is also performed by dancers.
In Manipur, nobab is used as a major source of vitamin C. This fruit holds a high place in the culture and tradition of Manipur. In Tamil Nadu, it is locally called as gadarangai. It is more commonly used for making pickles together with salt, oil, red chillies and other spices. In coastal Maharashtra, especially in Konkan, papanas (पपनस) are a major substitute for oranges, and mostly eaten sprinkled with salt and/or sugar. The fruit is known as chakotha hannu (ಚಕ್ಕೋತ ಹಣ್ಣು) in Kannada and dabba kaaya in Telugu. In Malayalam it is known as kambili naranga (കമ്പിളിനാരങ്ങ) or babloos naranga (ബബ്ലൂസ് നാരങ്ങ).
Pomelo and Medication
See also : Video – University of Florida – Hybrid grapefruit safe to take with meds
For years, doctors and pharmacists have warned people to steer clear of fresh grapefruit or grapefruit juice because it can change how much some medicines, including those meant to lower cholesterol, are absorbed in the patients’ bloodstream, intensifying therapeutic or side effects.
A chemical naturally found in some vegetables and fruits called furanocoumarin has been identified as primarily responsible for the grapefruit juice effect. Pomelo contains high amounts of furanocoumarin derivatives so they should be treated the same as grapefruit.