Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


The grapefruit tree.

We've been in this house almost a year.

When we arrived, there was one tree in the back yard, a sad old grapefruit that had long outlived any function and had been badly neglected. At first I thought it was a lemon, until it fruited a couple of big yellow orbs, just for old times' sake. I guessed it was about forty years old, probably a relic of the time when everyone was madly eating grapefruit prompted by some idiot diet plan that was around for fifteen minutes in the sixties or seventies.

The tree was a complete mess. It was dense and impenetrable. The branches were on the ground and there was no real canopy, just a jungle of branches growing in on each other. It gave no shade. Last summer there was really nowhere to sit in the middle of those terribly hot days.

One of the first things I did when we moved in was to prune it heavily. I removed all the branches drooping to the ground and those up to about three feet up the trunk. Then I hacked my way inwards like the early explorers cutting through jungle. It was full of those citrus spikes that can take out an eye. After about a day's work, I had a set of clothes ripped to bits, scratches all over my body and a pile of grapefruit branches and debris higher than the original tree.

After that I planted some lawn seeds beneath the tree. That was almost a year ago.

Yesterday, I sat out in the back garden during the afternoon. It was hot. I sat under the grapefruit tree. It's not a sad old grapefruit any more. Its massive canopy cast a deep pool of shade over the lawn. The branches spread upwards and outwards and waved gently in the light northerly. The leaves were rich and green, that delicious pale green of vigorous new growth. Where it wasn't green, it was specked white gold with blossom. I sat on the grass and gazed up at the blossom. Bees hummed. The scent of grapefuit blossom is one of the strongest and headiest I have known. Imagine lemon blossom, but add some notes of rich honey and a dash of jasmine and you just about have it.

William crawled over, stood up against me and pointed to a grapefruit on the tree. 'Moon!' he said. He knows 'moon' - it was one of his very first words - and the grapefruit are like moons to him.


I suppose the tree will be even happier if it knows we are eating its fruit. Any one know any grapefruit recipes? Everyone I ask turns up their nose and says, 'Yuk! seventies diet fruit!'

I'll have to eat them fresh, I suppose.


Julie said...

Make a compote out of them (like with oranges, only... not) and serve them over pound cake or angelfood cake. Only thing I know of, other than eating them fresh or as juice. I'm betting you could create some sort of cocktail with the juice and some vodka, maybe a little grenadine.

(Botany student here) Grapefruit scent is said to stimulate the hypothalmus and work as an anti-depressant and painkiller. And it does work nicely on headaches.

A grapefruit tree in your YARD. Geez. I wanna move to Australia. All I've got are a couple ugly sweet gums.

Anonymous said...

The woman in Oregon would serve them sectioned in salads with red onion and vinaigrette.

Janis Gore said...

Avocado, too, if I remember right.


jo said...

In the class i taught today we served them in a warm salad of pancetta, endive, pears and grapefruit slices (all pith removed) with a dressing made with a pomegranite juice reduction oil and vinegar. Twas good.
You also just made me feel a bit better. WE just spent 2 hours out back hacking away at our gorgeous Hawthorne that has Fire blight. It lloks like it has great holes in it nowand it makes me sick. I can only hope that next Spring will show me some new growth and it will be better than ever. (Fingers crossed)

jo said...

Oh yea...Remeber that orange cake you made? How about Grapefruit?

Dr. Alice said...

Nigel Slater (British food writer) swears by broiled grapefruit. Very Sixties, but also very good. Cut the grapefruit in half and section with your grapefruit knife, if you have one, then sprinkle with brown or white sugar and pop under broiler. Good for brunch, also a good fruit saver if the fruit is sour.

Anonymous said...

Julie, the proper cocktail is grapefruit juice and gin (I prefer vodka), with a salted rim.

It's called a "Salty Dog."

kitchen hand said...

Thank you all for your great ideas which I will most certainly use!

Julie, I might kick things off with a grapefruit cocktail! Thanks for the botanical note - I knew there was something special about the scent when I sat under the tree.

Anonymous and Janis, the salad will go straight into the repertoire. Red onions and avocado are favourite ingredients here. It will do well as a summer salad outdoors with a barbecue.

Jo, your warm salad sounds delicious. Pomegranates are frequently ignored here - I'm not sure why. Good luck with the Hawthorne and yes, we will bake with the grapefruit.

Dr Alice, that sounds good for breakfast.

Salty dogs all round, everyone! Cheers!

Ellen said...

We just eat them fresh, cut in half and scooping out the segments with serrated grapefruit spoons, then drinking whatever juice is left. When I was a kid we sprinkled sugar on them but now I tend to buy the sweeter Ruby Red ones that need no sugar. My kids can eat them all day long. What's not to like? Your grapefruit spikes sound like the ones on my lemon trees, a good reason why they're a bit overgrown. I need to get in armor to prune them.

lucette said...

I'm envious of your grapefruit tree, too! We have a pear tree, but it is parsimonious with its fruit.
I just went back and read the entry on the name of your blog--they were always eating in those books. I remember my sister and I were particularly taken with the idea of sausage rolls; and we could never understand why everyone was always so excited about biscuits.

sarah said...

Marmalade! I *love* graefruit marmalade, and if I were closer I would be begging for a bucketful!
Grapefruit makes a great salad when segmented (even peeled - it's not as hard as it sounds, and you can collect any juice and put it in the dressing) with sliced avocado and baby spinach.

kitchen hand said...

Ellen, the red ones are more popular here as well.

Lucette, you can't beat a good sausage roll. And yes, biscuits popped up on most pages.

Sarah, if you were any closer, I'd send you a bucketful. Nice salad. I'll try it.

The Food Whore said...

What a blessing to have them right out your back door!

Make a salad of assorted greens, grapefruit segments, cashews, red onion...make dressing with fresh grapefruit juice, dijon, honey and olive oil. Top with cheese of choice.