Pomelos are grown commercially in Thailand (where it's known as "sum-oh") and throughout Southeast Asia, China, Mexico, and regions of southern California and Florida. Native to Asia, it's one of the original non-hybrid citrus fruits used to cultivate most commercially available varieties. The grapefruit, for example, is a cross of pomelo and sweet orange. The pomelo's size — they can get as big as a basketball and weigh up to two pounds — earned it the moniker "King of Citrus Fruits." Its scientific name, citrus maxima, translates to "greatest citrus."
What Are Pomelos?
The pomelo may also be called pamplemousse, pummelo, or shaddock after the sea captain credited with bringing it to the West Indies. It's the largest and among the sweetest of the citrus fruits, with a thick rind and few seeds. Pomelos vary in color, from dark green to pale yellow. Some come to a peak on top where the stem joins the tree, giving them a vaguely pear shape, while others are completely round. The inner fruit ranges in color from white to orange to pink, and can be eaten fresh or used as a finishing element in both sweet and savory dishes. Pomelos generally cost considerably more than oranges and grapefruits, though aficionados say the expense is well worth it.
How to Use Pomelos
To open a pomelo, break through the rind, which can be up to two inches thick. With a sharp knife, slice off the stem end, then score it in quarters around the outside by slicing down through the skin. Peel the skin back like you would a banana (it may take some force) and completely remove the fruit. You can discard the rind or keep it to candy, pickle, or turn into marmalade. Peel off all the white skin from the whole pomelo, then break the fruit into sections, removing every bit of the bitter white pith and membranes. You can also cut it in half horizontally as you would a grapefruit and remove the sections with a serrated spoon. The fruit may range in color depending on the variety/hybrid you have purchased.
Eat the pomelo fresh or use it in a sweet or savory dish. In Thailand, fresh pomelo is often eaten with a sprinkle of salt and dash of chili powder, or incorporated into refreshing, acidic salad. Like grapefruit, pomelos pair well with seafood, and the juice adds zest to a marinade or vinaigrette.
What Does Pomelo Taste Like?
Pomelos are the least acidic and sour of the citrus fruits, but they also tend to be less juicy than grapefruits, oranges, and tangerines. They taste sweet and tart, but not bitter, and have a distinctive floral aroma.
You can use pomelo in place of a grapefruit or orange in many recipes, but do note that too much heat can make them bitter, so add them at the end of the cooking time or use them in recipes for cold preparations.
Where to Buy Pomelos
Fresh pomelos can be purchased at most Asian markets and sometimes in regular supermarkets and grocery store chains, from November through March, depending on where you live. You may also find them online for sale direct from growers, but most require two-day shipping due to the perishable nature of the fruit, adding to the already high cost. Rarely, you may come across packaged dried pomelo wedges or jars of pomelo marmalade.
A recently harvested, unpeeled pomelo remains fresh for about two weeks in the refrigerator. Once the skin is removed, the flesh dries out quickly, eat it right away or preserve it.