New Zealand’s climate is too cool for growing true grapefruit (Citrus paradisi). The fruit grown in New Zealand is variously called Poorman’s Orange, New Zealand grapefruit or Goldfruit, and is a hybrid of unknown origins.
Sir George Grey imported the parent plant to New Zealand in 1855, and it was propagated and planted around Auckland and Northland.
There has been a steady decline in New Zealand grapefruit cultivation—from 510 hectares in 1982 to just 82 hectares in 2002, as growers change to more commercial citrus crops.
Grapefruit’s refreshing, tart flavour makes it a superb companion to fish; it’s also very good with chicken and pork. Spices that marry well with grapefruit include cardamom, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon.
Salt intensifies its sweetness, while fresh ginger and herbs such as mint, basil, tarragon and rosemary all pair well with it. A surprisingly pleasant marriage comes with chilli peppers, both hot and mild, while tropical fruits (think pineapple, melon, papaya) along with raspberries, strawberries and pomegranate all make great partners with grapefruit.
Grapefruit zest is more bitter than other citrus, so you may want to blanch it several times to tame the harshness before adding it to your recipe. And beware of the pith, which is intensely bitter (it’s used to flavour tonic water). A twist of grapefruit zest makes a nice change from lemon or lime in drinks when a little bitterness is welcome.
The main difference in grapefruit varieties is the flesh, which comes in white and pink. This flesh colour is not an indication of sweetness—this is more influenced by the season. Fruit picked early are sour, but the same variety will turn sweeter as the season progresses. Regardless of colour, the varieties are all similar, with the main difference being the number (or lack) of seeds.
From June through to October locally grown white grapefruit is plentiful, with it being imported February to May. While pink grapefruit is primarily imported.