because citrus is a delightfully chaotic category of fruit
October 7, 2020 12:34 AM   Subscribe

Grapefruit Is One of the Weirdest Fruits on the Planet - "From its name, to its hazy origins, to its drug interactions, there's a lot going on beneath that thick rind."
posted by kliuless (52 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
Solid grapefruit explainer.
posted by latkes at 1:34 AM on October 7, 2020 [2 favorites]




Metafilter: there's a lot going on beneath that thick rind.
posted by Literaryhero at 2:00 AM on October 7, 2020 [10 favorites]


This article is fascinating but standard caveat for "the article that suddenly explains something shocking you never knew" -- the information about its drug interactions is remarkable and interesting but if it was *really* making medicines 10 times as potent (e.g turning one Tylenol pill into the equivalent of 10), one would think this would have been more widely noticed by now. I suspect what's really going on is more complicated.
posted by Seaweed Shark at 4:34 AM on October 7, 2020 [1 favorite]


The drug interactions caused by P450 enzyme inhibition is a standard part of pharmacology curricula. It's not mysterious or controversial at all. The Wikipedia article has good basic information for those interested.

Information like this is in drug inserts and also discussed individually when a medication is dispensed. Some of it filters out to click-driven infotainment blogs in a haphazard manner, which should not be a substitute for either undertaking a systematic curriculum or consulting someone who has. That said, it's always good to see public interest in science.
posted by dum spiro spero at 4:51 AM on October 7, 2020 [20 favorites]


Yeah as mentioned in the article there are warnings about not eating grapefruit on lots of medications in Canada.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 5:02 AM on October 7, 2020 [4 favorites]


I miss grapefruit! Damn drug interactions.
posted by dog food sugar at 5:29 AM on October 7, 2020 [3 favorites]


but if it was *really* making medicines 10 times as potent (e.g turning one Tylenol pill into the equivalent of 10), one would think this would have been more widely noticed by now. I suspect what's really going on is more complicated.

That was a manufactured example in which a drug would normally lose 90 percent in first pass metabolism,
is metabolized solely by the enzyme that grapefruit inhibits (it’s mostly CYP 3A4 I think though that’s the biggest single workhorse if the CYP family and it may affect some of the others as well) and the enzyme activity is effectively zero.

I mean, it’s not going to be quite that dramatic with most things in reality. But it’s definitely a real and potentially dangerous effect. It also prevents some drugs from working if they have to be converted to an active metabolite.
posted by atoxyl at 5:44 AM on October 7, 2020 [3 favorites]


Grapefruit spoons rule - grapefruit knives drool!

Truly the only dignified way to eat grapefruit is in delicate, sashimi-like suprêmes.
posted by Evstar at 6:36 AM on October 7, 2020 [9 favorites]


I've only ever been involved in one food fight in my entire life, and the highlight was someone else getting hit in the head, at distance, by a grapefruit (not thrown by me). It's been about 30 years and I'm sitting here chuckling about the sound it made upon impact.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:39 AM on October 7, 2020 [13 favorites]


Back when I was taking a statin, I was told there were similar drug interactions, I guess from the same enzyme, with the bergamot used to make Earl Grey tea. I did not miss grapefruit, but I did miss my Tea, Earl Grey, Hot. :(
posted by blakewest at 6:45 AM on October 7, 2020 [9 favorites]


Those who take benzos or opioids illicitly sometimes use grapefruit juice to potentiate the effects. There may be no warning on the bottle, but there is chat in drug forums on the internet.

For some of us who are sober and strange, there seems to be some sort of synesthetic bond between the bittersweet intensity of grapefruit juice and perversity and experimentation in the arts.
posted by kozad at 7:06 AM on October 7, 2020 [10 favorites]


In 1910, one of Atwood’s workers discovered that one tree was producing pink grapefruits; until then, Florida grapefruits had all been yellow-white on the inside. It became a huge success

I remember touring a citrus orchard with my grandparents in Florida in the late 60s, maybe early 70s. We asked how they tell pink from white grapefruit. The lady said "we remember where we plant the trees."
posted by spacewrench at 7:48 AM on October 7, 2020 [19 favorites]


For years, I drank Fresca and vodka at night, generally two glasses. They were not good years. I was also on antidepressants, and I assumed my remaining exhaustion and sadness was my own fault. Come to find out, Fresca has grapefruit juice in it! I did not realize this, because unlike grapefruit, Fresca actually tastes nice! All the years I wasted might have gone differently if I hadn't drunk that, among many other things--
posted by Countess Elena at 7:57 AM on October 7, 2020 [8 favorites]


I was shown how to segment half a grapefruit by someone with a hotelier background. The emphasis was on presentation. Any thin, short, sharp knife will do. First cut down on both sides of every membrane. Yes, this is somewhat tedious. Then cut down on the base of each segment, freeing it from the skin but still leaving the membranes intact. When finished, the grapefruit will still appear pretty much uncut but every segment easily lift out with a spoon. A slight dusting of confectioner's sugar is optional. And drop a maraschino into the center for the full effect...
posted by jim in austin at 7:59 AM on October 7, 2020 [8 favorites]


That's how I thought you had to eat grapefruit. Then one day I ate a grapefruit like an orange and grapefruits suddenly got so much easier to eat.
posted by aniola at 8:27 AM on October 7, 2020 [10 favorites]


Learning about the "grape" in grapefruit was my favorite part of the article:
If you’re thinking that the grapefruit doesn’t taste anything like grapes, you’re not wrong. It’s also documented that there were no vine grapes in Barbados by 1698. That means, according to one theory, that many of the people on the island would not really have known what grapes tasted like. Their only native grape-like plant is the sea grape, which grows in great numbers all around the Caribbean, but isn’t a grape at all. It’s in the buckwheat family, but does produce clusters of fruit that look an awful lot like grapes but aren’t particularly tasty. In fact, they’re quite sour and a little bitter, not unlike the grapefruit.
posted by aniola at 8:29 AM on October 7, 2020 [11 favorites]


It was just the Mid-Autumn Festival several days ago, and it is traditional to eat pomelos during this period. They're huge, and delicious! The ones from Ipoh, particularly. It seems like pomelos might have the same drug interaction issue as grapefruits... perhaps it hasn't been studied as much because Westerners don't eat much pomelos. Might be a good idea to not take them with medicines too.
posted by destrius at 8:34 AM on October 7, 2020 [1 favorite]


Any thin, short, sharp knife will do. First cut down on both sides of every membrane. Yes, this is somewhat tedious. Then cut down on the base of each segment, freeing it from the skin but still leaving the membranes intact. When finished, the grapefruit will still appear pretty much uncut but every segment easily lift out with a spoon

Yes! This was standard operating procedure in our house when I was growing up.

After all the segments were consumed, the remaining juice in the grapefruit half could be reclaimed by squeezing it over a glass.

I'd still do that, but I'm off grapefruit because I'm on one of the medications that it interferes with.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:35 AM on October 7, 2020 [2 favorites]


Yeah, in the article they said it's all bitter citrus that has the interaction. Grapefruit is the one they're expecting you to eat enough of for it to be an issue:
This interaction, by the way, seems to affect all of the bitter citruses—the ones that inherited the telltale tang from the pomelo. Sour orange. Lime, too. But it’s unlikely that anyone would drink enough sour orange or lime juice to have this effect, given how sour it is. Grapefruit, on the other hand, is far more palatable in large doses.
posted by aniola at 8:58 AM on October 7, 2020 [1 favorite]


ha, yeah, that's the part that's probably reflective of a more western diet. dang, now i have to revisit the foods and cuisine around me....
posted by cendawanita at 9:14 AM on October 7, 2020 [1 favorite]


It was just the Mid-Autumn Festival several days ago, and it is traditional to eat pomelos during this period.
Just yesterday I enjoyed my first one, was thinking what a strange mutant thing it was and how come we do not have them in the west? Very interesting to discover that they are actually one of the Ur citrus fruits, that it is our typical oranges that are the strange hybrids. Wild!

These fruits are all over the place in China, very often just growing in parks or other public areas.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:32 AM on October 7, 2020 [5 favorites]


I like Fresca enough that I still have the occasional can, I've noticed no issues.
posted by Splunge at 9:46 AM on October 7, 2020


Never have cared that much for grapefruit, but do have very fond memories of sitting with my grandfather on a flexy, rusted steel slat bench under one of the mammoth live oaks in their yard while he carefully peeled just the top half of the rind from the pith, then cut a cone out the top of the grapefruit, jabbed the knife around the interior to break it up, and then handed it to me as a nature-made squeezable juice box. To this day fresh is the only way I enjoy grapefruit juice. Canned or bottled is unspeakably vile, but straight from the fruit itself you skip that metallic bitterness entirely.

As an aside, citrus trees grow surprisingly tall if you never top them out. The grandparents kept an old rake leaning against the trunk so they could reach up and yank down grapefruits, but that tree easily hit forty feet or more. And they're not kidding about citrus wanting to be wild. Any time you plant an orange seed, you almost exclusively get only a sour orange--they instead need to be grafted from known tasty stock. On the other hand, sour orange 'lemonade' is divine, and I wish you could more easily get hold of seedling oranges. My grandmother use to juice them for us from a seedling in their yard.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 9:47 AM on October 7, 2020 [4 favorites]


Any time grapefruit is mentioned I'm reminded of my favorite passage from the Gore Vidal essay "Remembering Orson Welles":
[Vidal is recounting the time he and Orson were gleefully poring over the unpublished manuscript of musician Rudy Vallée's memoirs]

As professional storytellers, we were duly awed by Rudy’s handling of The Grapefruit Incident, which begins, so casually, at Yale.

"Ironically, the dean was the father of the boy who, nine years later, was to hurl a grapefruit at me in a Boston theater and almost kill me."

Then the story is dropped. Pages pass. Years pass. Then the grapefruit motif is reintroduced. Rudy and his band have played for the dean; afterward, when they are given ice cream, Rudy asks, “Is this all we’re having….”

"Apparently one of [the dean’s] sons noticed my rather uncivil question…and resolved that some day he would avenge this slight. What he actually did later at a Boston theater might have put him in the electric chair and me in my grave but fortunately his aim was bad. But of that more later."

Orson thought this masterful. Appetites whetted, we read on until the now inevitable rendezvous of hero and grapefruit in a Boston theater where, as Rudy is singing, “Oh, Give Me Something to Remember You By,” “a large yellow grapefruit came hurtling from the balcony. With a tremendous crash it struck the drummer’s cymbal…” but “if it had struck the gooseneck of my sax squarely where it curves into the mouth it might have driven it back through the vertebra in the back of my neck.” Of this passage, the ecstatic Orson whispered, “Conrad”—what might have been if Lord Jim had remained on watch.
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:11 AM on October 7, 2020 [5 favorites]


In 1664, a Dutch physician named Wouter Schouden visited Barbados and described the citrus he sampled there as “tasting like unripe grapes.” ... If you’re thinking that the grapefruit doesn’t taste anything like grapes, you’re not wrong.

Let me introduce you to ghooreh (sour grape). I have a childhood memory of my mom asking my dad to pull over by a vineyard so she could ... steal some unripe grapes in order to make dried ghooreh, as it wasn't available where we lived. He was mortified.
posted by exogenous at 10:58 AM on October 7, 2020 [2 favorites]


After all the segments were consumed, the remaining juice in the grapefruit half could be reclaimed by squeezing it over a glass.

I prefer to squeeze it directly into my mouth like a wineskin...
posted by jim in austin at 11:03 AM on October 7, 2020 [1 favorite]


I can't stand grapefruit, or Fresca, but I do enjoy the occasional Long Drink, served very cold. No idea if the grapefruit potentiates the booze aspect, though.
posted by SansPoint at 11:04 AM on October 7, 2020 [4 favorites]


I like Fresca, as well, and really like Ruby Red Squirt (I've never seen diet RRS in the wild, although I'm told it exists), and try not to have it too often because of the furanocoumarin problem. Here's an article on the problem with sodas containing grapefruit juice, although it's frustratingly short on detail as to dosage (i.e. how much grapefruit juice the sodas contain, which the soda companies may be reluctant to reveal for obvious reasons); here's another article in which a furanocoumarin-free grapefruit juice is used as part of the study.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:10 AM on October 7, 2020


I prefer to squeeze it directly into my mouth like a wineskin...

Heh. That's totally what we did. I was just trying to sound all fancy.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:17 AM on October 7, 2020 [4 favorites]


I want a follow-up article in 20 years about how the grapefruit industry underdog set out to take down the pharmaceutical lobby in the US and won.
posted by aniola at 11:40 AM on October 7, 2020 [2 favorites]


Do people commonly use grapefruit juice to abuse/enhance oral drugs? Seems like something that should be more well-known than it is.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 11:50 AM on October 7, 2020




Do people commonly use grapefruit juice to abuse/enhance oral drugs? Seems like something that should be more well-known than it is.

Yeah, it is pretty well known in the recreational opiate crowd.
posted by Dysk at 12:48 PM on October 7, 2020 [3 favorites]


(I enjoy being delightfully chaotic.)
posted by Citrus at 12:57 PM on October 7, 2020 [14 favorites]


yall are talking about grapefruit as if the very first link in the article isn't about something far more interesting.

Somewhere I still have bookmarked a shopping link to finger limes. Never had the opportunity to try them, as the Venn diagramme of stockists/delivery location/duration of stay/access to functional kitchen has yet to align itself in my favour. Being a lover of all things citrus this is an ongoing, if mild, disappointment.
posted by myotahapea at 2:36 PM on October 7, 2020 [3 favorites]


This is so informative and in many ways very surprising. Thanks for posting.
posted by mumimor at 2:38 PM on October 7, 2020 [2 favorites]


Trying to think of something different and quick for breakfast, I thought, "Aha! I will have grapefruit, like I used to have at Grandma's all those years ago! Just a simple slice and a sprinkling of sugar, nothing could prepare quicker!"

Then, at least half an hour later, I finally fished out the final wedge with my spoon.
posted by ckape at 2:38 PM on October 7, 2020 [1 favorite]


I pull the segments apart and individually pull off the membranes before eating them like little self-contained finger limes. I never cared for them at all before I started eating them this way.

I use sour orange all the time. It's amazing for adding intense citrus to dishes just as they're coming off the fire, and their juice is great for pickling red onions. I live in a mostly Caribbean neighborhood and most of the grocers carry them. Delicious.
posted by 1adam12 at 3:36 PM on October 7, 2020 [2 favorites]


Both orange blossom and grapefruit blossom nectars contain caffeine in significant amounts, and since I saw that years ago, I Google every few months for a 'turns out citrus has earned its place on the breakfast table the hard way' type story, but it's not to be, apparently — yet since the apparatus is already all there in the genome, wouldn't it be GMO duck soup to cause that to be expressed in juice producing cells?

Those who take benzos or opioids illicitly sometimes use grapefruit juice to potentiate the effects. There may be no warning on the bottle, but there is chat in drug forums on the internet.

For some of us who are sober and strange, there seems to be some sort of synesthetic bond between the bittersweet intensity of grapefruit juice and perversity and experimentation in the arts.
posted by kozad


That's fascinating, kozad; dimethyl tryptamine is the nominal endogenous hallucinogen, so maybe it's reasonable to guess that grapefruit delays its metabolic degradation as well, and DMT metabolism does involve the CYP and MAO enzyme systems in complicated ways, although in most circumstances the MAO system may predominate, and I didn't succeed in nailing down how much of an MAO inhibitor grapefruit could be.
posted by jamjam at 5:43 PM on October 7, 2020 [2 favorites]


So, halve your grapefruit, loosen all the segments with a knife, put each half in an oven-safe bowl, drizzle the top of each with a generous layer of honey, and then put the entire thing under the broiler until just beginning to show color. Eat while still warm for a delicious very-Old World sort of treat!

My family used to do this for breakfast on special occasions. I still do it from time to time. Very nice!
posted by hippybear at 6:05 PM on October 7, 2020 [3 favorites]


We just bought a house this spring that has a prolific grapefruit tree in the backyard. I've never been much of a fan, but these are huge, incredibly juicy and almost sweet so I've been looking for more opportunities to use them up - grapefruit margaritas have been a recent fave. Thank you for sharing this post, I will definitely be more careful with them now!
posted by platinum at 6:05 PM on October 7, 2020


Just yesterday I enjoyed my first one, was thinking what a strange mutant thing it was and how come we do not have them in the west?

I've been wondering about that too... I don't recall ever seeing a pomelo while I was in the States. Given how thick its rind is you'd imagine it'd be perfect for shipping. They also seem way easier to peel than grapefruit from what I'm reading in this thread... You just need a knife to make a few incisions and then you can just use your hands to peel off all the rind. (Peeling pomelos is actually really fun and kind of therapeutic)

On a tangent, I was at the supermarket the other day and there was a section labeled "exotic vegetables", containing... parsnips, fennel bulbs and brussels sprouts.
posted by destrius at 6:16 PM on October 7, 2020


there seems to be some sort of synesthetic bond between the bittersweet intensity of grapefruit juice and perversity and experimentation in the arts.

Hunter S. Thompson was a fan
posted by panama joe at 7:38 PM on October 7, 2020 [2 favorites]


Grapefruit juice is really the best "starting to come down from LSD, want to bump back up" thing to consume. If you can find it appealing in that state of mind.
posted by hippybear at 8:36 PM on October 7, 2020 [1 favorite]


I've found pomelos in the farmers markets and occasionally in super markets out here in California.
posted by Carillon at 10:30 PM on October 7, 2020


(Peeling pomelos is actually really fun and kind of therapeutic)

Indeed! And at least with the specimen I had, they are not so juicy so peeling is not a mess at all. The skin of the segments just easily separates, and you are left with the tender inside bits. These really should become more of a thing.
posted by Meatbomb at 12:47 AM on October 8, 2020


Fellas.. any of you ever been grapefruited?
posted by Chickenring at 11:37 AM on October 8, 2020 [1 favorite]


For gardeners in the US (excluding Arizona, Texas, and Florida; also Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands), Four Winds Growers sells many varieties of fruit trees, including exotic citrus such as finger lime, bergamot, etrog, and Buddha's hand.
posted by Lexica at 2:32 PM on October 8, 2020


The linked site tried to infect Safari, probably with a malware ad the site is unaware of.
posted by sydnius at 5:40 AM on October 9, 2020


A fascinating article - thank you. My doc told me a couple of years ago that I should NOT drink grapefruit juice when she put me on a daily statin, much to my dismay. I did not realize until reading this article, however, that it is contraindicated for so many other types of drugs.
posted by davidmsc at 1:11 PM on October 9, 2020


From Thailand: Som-Oh forever!

with shallot/chili/salt as a salad, little dried shrimpies on top
posted by goinWhereTheClimateSuitsMyClothes at 1:41 PM on October 11, 2020


« Older Celebrating Art and Black Representation   |   The Only Thing Holding Boom Back At This Point Is... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments