Pomelo (Citrus grandis), the largest of citrus fruits, belongs to the family Rutaceae. It is also known as Shaddock. Pomelo derives its name from a word of unknown origin 'pampelmoose'. The tasty fruit is popular locally for its taste and features significantly in the Chinese new year celebrations.

Origins and distribution
Pomelo, believed to be an ancestor of the grapefruit, is native to the Southeast Asian and the Indo-China regions. The exact place of origin is unknown. It is most likely from Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia where it is found in the wild. The Chinese cultivated it as a crop for thousands of years as it features significantly in the Chinese new year festivities. Variations of pomelo, either bred through selection and propagation or found as natural hybrids, have been cultivated in different places. In 1884, a variety of pomelo, limau bali, was imported into Malaya from Indonesia by Sir Hugh Low and it was grown in Penang and Perak. A peculiar variety found in the Dutch East Indies called the limau wangkang by Malays, consists of a small fruit enclosed inside a larger fruit. Some types of pomelo have no rind. In Southeast Asia, it is grown as a cultivable crop in Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia. In Malaysia pomelo is widely grown in the state of Perak, Kedah, Melaka, Kelantan and Johor. It is also grown commercially in parts of the USA, Israel, China and Japan and is found growing non-commercially in India, Jamaica and the Middle East. Pomelo, known to be the largest of all citrus fruits, can grow as large as a foot in diameter and weigh up to 25 pounds. Popular variations of the fruit are the P051 and P052 where the fruit is sweet and delicious.

The pomelo tree is a large bushy tree with an irregular crown growing to around 5 to 15 m in height. The thorny tree has many branches and it produces fruits all year round. Its bark is brownish yellow and thick. The leaves are simple and grow to about 2 to 12 cm wide. Oil glands are present on them as small dots and this gives the dark green leaves a shiny appearance. When crushed, they give off a strong smell. The flowers are yellowish white or plain white, fragrant, solitary and grow to around 2.5 cm wide. The pomelo fruit is the largest of all citrus fruits. Its outer skin is rough and easy to peel. It is light green to yellow and dotted with oil glands. The fruit is either round or oblong with a white thick spongy pith that encloses the edible portion of the fruit. Each fruit consists of 9 to14 segments covered with paper-thin skin. The flesh of the fruit is white, light yellow, pink or rose-red, juicy with a sweet sour or spicy sweet taste. Some fruits leave a bitter after taste in the mouth. The seeds are few in number, yellowish white and large.

Usage and potential
The pomelo fruit is eaten fresh or processed into juice. The rind is candied or used in jams. Malays boil the rind in a syrup. For cooking purposes, it is sometimes used in place of grapefruit.

The Chinese eat the sweet and sour fruit is eaten to fortify the lungs and the spleen. They make various medicaments from the seeds, flowers, mature peel, and slices of young fruit by usually drying them up. It is used in treating cough, swellings, vomiting, indigestion, in removing phlegm and resolving alcohol toxins and hangover. The Malays eat the fruit to treat abdominal pains, oedema and phlegm. The leaves are boiled into a lotion and applied on swellings and ulcers. Pomelo fruit is an excellent source of Vitamin C. 

Other uses
The Chinese boil pomelo skin and leaves for a ritual bath that cleanses a person and repels evil. It is also used by Malays in exorcism to remove evil spirits. Oil can be extracted from the leaves, peel or seeds of some pomelo races. Oil from the seeds is used in lighting up opium pipes in Indo-China. Flowers are used to extract perfume. Timber from pomelo trees are used in making tool-handles and being moderately heavy and hard, it can used for other purposes accordingly.

Variant names
Common name: Pomelo.
Scientific name: Citrus grandis.
Malay name: Limau bali, limau besar, limau tambun, limau abong (Malaysia), jeruk bali, jeruk adas, jeruk machan, limau kibau, limau balak, limau besar, limau betawi, jambua (Indonesia).
Other common names: Shaddock, Batavia lemon.

Naidu Ratnala Thulaja

Burkill, I. H. (1993). A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula (pp. 577-578). Kuala Lumpur: Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives.
(Call no.: RSING 634.909595 BUR)

Muhamad bin Zakaria & Mustafa Ali Mohd. (1994). Traditional Malay medicinal plants (p. 142). Kuala Lumpur: Fajar Bakti.
(Call no.: R 581.634 MUH)

Nathan, A., & Wong, Y. C. (1987). A guide to fruits and seeds (p. 62). Singapore: Singapore Science Centre.
(Call no.: RSING 582 NAT)

Othman Yaacob & Subhadrabandhu, S. (1995). The production of economic fruits in south-east Asia (pp. 156-164). New York: Oxford University Press.
(Call no.: R 634.0959 OTH)

Further Readings
Department of Agriculture, Malaysia. (2003-2004). Fruit technology: Pomelo (Citrus grandis). Retrieved January 9, 2005, from agrolink.moa.my/doa/bdc/fruits/pomeltek_bi.html 

The information in this article is valid as at 1999 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history on the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Science and technology>>Agriculture>>Fruit crops

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