The secret lives of citrus fruit

Okay, I had no idea that lemons and grapefruit are actually hybrid mixes of other fruits. How did I get to age 31 and miss this? Better yet, both citruses were born accidentally, of illicit love affairs not arranged by human hands. Lemons are the love child of citron and orange. Grapefruit the natural daughter of Asian pomelo and Barbados sweet orange. (Via David Despain)


  1. My roommate n me long ago had a long drawn out argument over two days as to whether lemons and limes were the same thing. 

    If you think internet arguments get fucked up or long, you are young yet. Pre-internet shit could drag on when neither party had good access to materials. The Encyclopedia Brit we had didn’t help us, the phone didn’t help us and pissed off a few people, and the fucking library couldn’t settle it.

    Eventually we forgot which of us had taken which side and dropped the matter.

  2. These facts are all new to me too.  Also, I’m very pleased to have seen the Buddha’s Hand, which looks just like a deep fried squid.

    However, I hereby challenge the claim that lemons arose naturally.  How could that be known, given that lemons are as old as Jesus?

  3. Citrus is pretty happy to cross.  The one that really blew my mind was the Calamondin orange – it’s a cross between a mandarin orange and a kumquat. Kumquats aren’t even in the Citrus genus – they’re Fortunella, and kumquat fruit doesn’t have segments the way citrus does.

  4.  Many people aren’t aware that oranges are also hybrids, likely between pomelos and mandarins.

    The original citrus fruits are pomelo, mandarin, citron, key lime, kumquats, papedas, trifoliate orange (if you count that as citrus, which is apparently somewhat controversial), and the three australian limes: finger lime, australian round lime, desert lime.  Anything else you eat which is citrus is a hybrid.

  5. But why’s it called a grapefruit? That’s what I always wanted to know.
    I mean, a starfruit is a fruit that resembles a star, breadfruit is a fruit that resembles bread, but a grapefruit a) doesn’t resemble a grape, and b) grapes are already a fruit!
    It’s like calling a potato a carrotvegetable!

    1. Names are often f-ed up, I for one will never order sweetbreads, even if I’m in a fucking bakery. That’s a mistake you make only once. 

      It isn’t bread and it isn’t sweet, and if organs aren’t your thing it’ll make you gag.

      The etymology justifies it, but that didn’t help me at the time

      1. And sweetmeats?  Totally not meat.

        Don’t even get me started on truck nuts.

    2. Wikipedia’s got you covered:

      Its current name alludes to clusters of the fruit on the tree, which often appear similar to grapes

      1. You know that pineapple originally meant pine cone?  The fruit was named for its resemblance.

        1. So if it resembles a ‘pineapple’, following the pattern I established above shouldn’t it be called a pineapplefruit?

          Fruit nomenclature is hard. Don’t get me started on how an apple was originally a napple (similarly an uncle used to be a nuncle, shakespeare used nuncle all the time) but time changed it.

          1. But a grape is already a fruit and it had another fruit named after it!
            I think we’re just going round in circles here ;)

            [Replying to myself as I can’t reply to you. As a moderator, can I ask why restrict comment ‘trees’ to three replies?]

          2. Because if I change it to unlimited,






  6. What’s immensely confusing about the citrus family is the large amount smilar-but-different cross-languge names. A lemon is a “sitron” in Norwegian, and the citron/etrog isn’t common enough to really have a name. A lime is small green and bitter – but don’t confuse it with the more yellow key lime (which I believe we call a limette, if it has a name at all) … which is apparently sometimes called a “limero” in Spanish – or “limonero” or a “lima” (= lime), or a “limón (something)” – a green/mexican/peruvian/acidic/whatever-lemon.

  7. Ah, fruit. My favorite topic. My brag here is I’ve tasted 100+ varieties of citrus.
    One of the best non-research sites for citrus is “Citrus Pages”
    Here he breaks down the citrus into 3 main species from which almost all cultivars are derived.
    Kumquats are either Citrus or Fortunella but they are a separate species. They readily hybridize with other citrus.
    Beside the Buddha’s hand citron the two ‘primitive’ citrus you are most likely to run across is the ornamental Trifoliate Orange and the Kaffir / Thai Lime.

  8. The Wikipedia pages on Citrus and Citrus Hybrids have a lot of good information.  I first found them when trying to understand Meyer lemons and the Calamansi and Dalandan citrus sodas in my local Asian grocery (they’re both Philippine variants on Citrus – Calamansi tastes sort of like lime, but is really a mandarin-kumquat hybrid, and Dalandan’s a tangeriney orange of somewhat more obscure origin.  And then there’s the whole Japanese Citrus category.

    But yeah, the whole citrus family is a wild mess!

  9. This post and the comments lead me to believe that citrus is one horny, slutty fruit!

    1. Could that be an insult? Jeez dude, your sister really hybridizes freely.

      1. Perhaps, if you think of sluts as negative things, but seeing as I think sluts are AWESOME, then, you know.  SLUT AWAY FRUIT, SLUT AWAY. And forget the condoms! Create more awesome, delicious, slutty fruit!

  10. “Apple,” in English, used to be a more generic term for “fruit.”  Thus, the pineapple, when newly discovered, looked to the English like a pinecone.  It was a pinecone appearing fruit, thus, “pineapple.”   The “apple” thing is also present in the names Romance languages give to other fruits and vegetables.  Witness the French “pomme de terre” and the Italian “pomodoro,”   which mean “earth apple” (for potato) and “golden apple”  (for tomato) respectively.

    I believe this usage may be why the fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil from Genesis is traditionally represented as an apple.

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