Ship Grapefruit in the United States
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The United States produces nearly one half of the world's grapefruits on an annual basis. By comparison, America is responsible for only about 15 percent most other citrus fruits including the orange, lemon and lime. Why is the U.S. so dominant when it comes to this one particular fruit? Give us a moment to explain.
Our story begins on the island of Barbados in 1750 where a Welsh explorer took note of a strange fruit. Years later, botanists would name it grapefruit for the way it grows in clusters, like grapes. They would also determine that the grapefruit did not originate in Barbados, but rather 1300 miles away on the island of Jamaica.
You see, the grapefruit is a hybrid fruit, a cross between an Indonesian pomelo and a Jamaican sweet orange. And since oranges and pomelos did not grow in Barbados at the time, it is impossible for the fruit to have originated on Barbados.
The grapefruit, or rather its seeds, were first brought to America by a Spanish count in 1823. It was believed that this new citrus fruit would have as much success in Florida as its close relative, the orange. But most people who tasted it found it sour and unpalatable. After all, people had been eating sweet oranges for centuries by the time the grapefruit arrived and they were not impressed.
There was no grapefruit industry in the United States when the grapefruit, or rather its seeds, again, were first planted in South Texas. Though Texas was famous for its large mineral and petroleum deposits, farmers were desperate for new agricultural products. But once again the grapefruit got out to an inauspicious start in the Lone Star State. It seemed that people simply didn't have a taste for the exotic new fruit. However, some farmers did ship grapefruit, but the crops were mostly small and experimental and there were no commercial sales.
But all that changed in 1929 when a chance discovery led to the creation of America's grapefruit industry. The new grapefruit variation that was found growing on a pink tree would come to be known as the “Ruby” red grapefruit. Unlike its predecessors, the white and pink grapefruit, the Ruby red grapefruit was sweet, not bitter.
In a short period of time, farmers began to ship grapefruit all over the state, then the nation. Encouraged by the success in Texas, Florida began to plant huge grapefruit crops during the 1930s, even though it was already producing large crops of oranges, tangerines, and other citrus fruits. And by the end of the decade they had surpassed the Lone Star State in total production.
Today, there are only four states that ship grapefruit: Florida, Texas, Arizona and California. As you might expect, Texas and Florida produce the vast majority of grapefruits in America. The other two states only ship grapefruit in small quantities.