A giant, exotic citrus fruit
The pomelo has many monikers—pummelo, shaddock, shaddick, Chinese grapefruit, pamplemousse—and a hazy etymology. Its first use in written English was in 1707, whereby British traveller Hans Sloane named it ‘shaddock’, after an East India sea captain of the same name, whom he claimed “first brought [the seed] to Barbados”—though food historians have never found record of any such captain’s existence.
The origin of its Latin moniker, citrus grandis, seems rather more straightforward—for this is, indeed, a ridiculously large citron. “It’s double, maybe triple the size of a grapefruit,” says Charlie of Turnips, where you’ll find these exotic fruits piled high, “though they’re very similar in both appearance and flavour.”
Pomelos are native to the sunny climes of south-east Asia—“we get ours from China”—where they’ve been gathered and cultivated for thousands of years. It is, in fact, one of four ancient varieties of citrus (pomelo, citron, mandarin and papeda) from which all subsequent hybrids have been derived including grapefruit, which is believed to be a hybrid of pomelo and the sweet orange.
Thick, leathery rind
While larger and, due to its unfamiliarity, perhaps more intimidating than its more common cousins, this giant is not just big, but friendly, and can be treated much the same as other citrus fruits. Peeled of its thick, leathery rind and skinned to reveal sour, juicy, fragrant pale flesh, it can be eaten raw as a “lovely breakfast”, or can be used to jazz up winter salads.
Regular Market Life columnist Sybil Kapoor suggests slicing the flesh thinly and mixing it up with bitter chicory leaves and red onion, seasoned with chilli, coriander or mint. The peel and pith can be candied and used to decorate cakes, or simply dipped in chocolate for a sweet, sumptuous treat. The zest, says Sybil, can be used to “add zing to rich dishes”.
As with other citrus fruits, pomelo is wonderful when paired with fish, fresh from the Market. Borough Market demonstration chef Christian Honor combines his with lime and ginger sea bass and bean curd, or if you can bear to wait a few weeks for the first of the Jersey royals, try making an escabeche of mackerel, jersey royals, pomelo and mustard frill for a sublimely seasonal dish.