Buy Grapefruit from Texas
Image by little black spot on the sun today via Flickr
First seen on the island of Barbados in 1750, the grapefruit is one of the most recent additions to the citrus family of fruits. Officially, the grapefruit is a hybrid, a cross between the ancient Indonesian pomelo and the Jamaican sweet orange. The fruit was first cultivated on the island of Jamaica during the 17th century. Later, it made its way to Barbados and then to the United States.
At the start, few people would actually buy grapefruit. There are two reasons for this. The first is that the grapefruit was simply too bitter and at the time table sugar was seen as a delicacy. The second is that the grapefruit had to compete directly with the orange, which had come to Florida centuries earlier and was already well established.
Years later, the grapefruit arrived in South Texas where the subtropical climate was perfect for cultivating the exotic new fruit. The first grapefruit crop in Texas was planted in 1893. But still, the locals did not buy grapefruit. It was not until 1929 that fruit truly became a resident of the Lone Star State.
What happened? In short, a new variety of grapefruit was discovered. Before this time, all grapefruits were either white or pink. The white variety was the original, while the pink was a simple mutation. The discovery that was made, the one that essentially gave birth to the Texas grapefruit industry was yet another natural mutation. This time, the fruit was red, not pink.
But the color had little to do with its almost instant success. In the end, it was flavor that set the new red grapefruit apart from its predecessors. That is why people who didn't like the other varieties began buying grapefruits ten at a time.
The new variety was so popular that it was christened the “Ruby” shortly after its discovery. Orchard owners and farmers even competed with each other to create the reddest “Ruby” grapefruit in the world. Many of these new strains were actually named after the farmers that developed them. But all were sold under the Ruby name.
As you might expect, with the increased focus on the Ruby, the pink and white varieties became mere niche players. Finally, in 1962, the state of Texas decided to officially eliminate the white and pink grapefruit. The decision was based on marketing as much as it was on sales numbers. Of course, people would still occasionally buy grapefruit that were not from Ruby trees. But Texas farmers and orchard owners desperately wanted to establish the Lone Star State as the Ruby grapefruit capital of the world, as well as giving Florida some stiff competition as a premier citrus fruit growing state.. With over half a million tons in annual grapefruit sales, they certainly seem to have succeeded.