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Spanish grapefruits are moderately sized, averaging 8 to 15 centimeters in diameter, and have a globular to oblate shape with flattened ends. The peel is smooth, thick, and slightly bumpy, covered in tiny pores that release aromatic essential oils. Depending on the variety, the peel ripens from green to yellow or green to pink-orange with maturity. Underneath the surface, there is a thick white pith that is spongy and bitter, encasing a pale-yellow, red, or pink flesh. The flesh is divided into 11 to 14 segments by thin, white membranes, and is soft and aqueous, containing a few seeds to being seedless with a semi-hollow center. Spanish grapefruits are juicy and tender with a sweet, tangy, and acidic flavor.
Spanish grapefruits are available in the fall through mid-spring.
Spanish grapefruits, botanically classified as Citrus X paradisi, is a general descriptor for many different varieties of grapefruit produced in Spain. The large fruits belong to the Rutaceae family and are known locally as Toronja, which is the Spanish word for “grapefruit.” Spain accounts for twenty-five percent of the fresh global citrus production and is one of the leading citrus exporters in Europe. While the country is primarily known for its orange and lemon cultivation, grapefruit production was also established in the late 20th century as a supplementary export crop. In the present day, Spain is the fourth largest grapefruit exporter into Europe and has the distinct advantage of being the closest exporting country, shipping fresh fruits in less than seventy-two hours to markets across the continent. The most popular varieties of Spanish grapefruits include the star ruby, rio red, and white marsh, and the varieties are known for having a uniform appearance and balanced, sweet, and sour flavor for fresh eating.
Spanish grapefruits are an excellent source of vitamin C, which is an antioxidant that can help boost the immune system and increase collagen production within the skin. The fruits are also a good source of potassium, which can regulate fluid levels in the body and contain fiber, copper, phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium.
Spanish grapefruits are best suited for raw applications as their sweet and sour flavor is showcased when consumed fresh, out-of-hand. The flesh can be segmented and tossed into green salads, mixed into fruit bowls, halved, sprinkled with sugar, and consumed as a breakfast dish, or pressed into juice for beverages and cocktails. Spanish grapefruits can also be lightly broiled and served with syrups or fresh fruit, baked into tarts, blended into puddings, or cooked into jams, jellies, and marmalades. In Spain, the acidic nature of the flesh allows the juice to be incorporated into sauces with savory main dishes, mixed into vinaigrettes for salads, or cooked into syrups for flavoring desserts. The flesh is also used in sangria, and the peel can be candied as a sweet-tart treat. Spanish grapefruits pair well with meats such as rabbit, lamb, pork, and fish, spices such as cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg, honey, brown sugar, avocado, bananas, goat cheese, nuts, and bitter greens. The fresh fruits will keep 1 to 4 weeks, depending on the degree of ripeness, when stored in a cool, dry, and dark place.
Grapefruit is a relatively new addition to Spanish gastronomy and is celebrated for its substantial texture, bitter-sweet flavor, and juicy nature. The fruits are especially present in the gastronomy of Murcia, which is a region in southeastern Spain that contains a fertile valley known as La Huerta de Murcia. The valley is sustained by the Segura River and is home to citrus groves, fields of peppers and tomatoes, and other vegetables such as cauliflower and zucchini. Many of the ingredients in Murcian cuisine are locally sourced from the valley and coastal waters, and citrus is widely used in cooking as a finishing element for seafood, rice dishes, soups, and roasted meats. Spanish grapefruit is also a typical dessert of the region, eaten fresh or used as a topping on cakes with syrup.
Grapefruits are native to the Caribbean and have been growing wild since ancient times. The fruits were spread around the world via exploration, trade, and immigration, where they became highly cultivated in the 18th century. Many different varieties were created through natural crossbreeding, and grapefruits began to be commercially cultivated in Spain beginning in the late 20th century. Today the fruits are primarily grown in Murcia, Valencia, Alicante, Seville, and Huelva, and can be found through local farmers, markets, and in-home gardens throughout Spain. Spanish grapefruits are also exported into Russia and Europe, where they are sold in the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and France.