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Question:

    How did the grapefruit get its name? It doesn't look like a grape.

Answer:    

    It is believed that the name refers to the manner in which grapefruit grows in clusters on a tree.

Most botanists agree that the grapefruit is a cross between a pummelo (see http://www.floridata.com/Plants/Rutaceae/Citrus%20maxima/1069) External Link and a sweet orange (see http://www.floridata.com/Plants/Rutaceae/Citrus%20sinensis/647). External Link Grapefruit, like all citrus fruit, is a Hesperidum, or a large modified berry with a thick rind.

If you see grapefruit growing on a tree, you will notice that they grow in clusters. It is suggested that these clusters resemble the shape of large yellow grapes and so the fruit was called a grapefruit. Another explanation is that the premature grapefruit looks similar in shape to unripe green grapes.

Standard DisclaimerRelated Web Sites
  • Facts about Citrus Fruits and Juices: Grapefruit External Link - This PDF document from the Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) provides a description of grapefruit and its varieties, tips, storage, health benefits, and suggestions for incorporating grapefruit juice into a healthy diet. A brief summary addressing grapefruit juice/drug interactions is included. (PDF, 712 KB)
  • Grapefruit External Link - EDIS (Electronic Data Information Source) at the University of Florida, provides information on the history, distribution, description, and cultivars of grapefruit.

Library of Congress Web SiteFurther Reading
  • Johns, Leslie, and Violet Stevenson. Grapefruit. In The complete book of fruit. London, Angus and Robertson Publishers, 1979. p. 148-150.
  • Magness, J.R. How fruit came to America. National geographic magazine, v. 100, Sept. 1951: 327-377. (Discussion of grapefruit is on p. 354-355)
  • Morton, Julia Frances. Grapefruit. In Fruits of warm climates. Miami, FL, J. F. Morton, c1987. p. 152-158.
    http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/grapefruit.html External Link
  • Sinclair, Walton B. The grapefruit: its composition, physiology, and products. Berkeley, University of California, Division of Agricultural Sciences, 1972. 660 p.
  • Tolkowsky, Samuel. Hesperides; a history of the culture and use of citrus fruits. London, J. Bale, Sons & Curnow, 1938. 371 p.

SearchFor more print resources...
Search on "grapefruit" and "citrus fruit" in the Library of Congress Online Catalog.

Basket of grapefruit.
Grapefruit and grapefruit juice. From the USDA’s Choose My Plate website.

Photo of grapefruit clusters on a tree Grapefruit clusters. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Girl holding a grapefruit
A beneficiary of the Red Cross drought relief
work in Mississippi, c. 1930.
Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

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 August 14, 2017
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