Chinese New Year and the Spring Festival officially begin today.  The zodiac system has existed in Chinese culture since the Qin dynasty, more than 2,000 years ago and 2018 is year of the Earth Dog. The Dog occupies the eleventh position in the Chinese zodiac, after the Rooster, and before the Pig.

Zodiac signs play an integral part in Chinese culture, and can be used to determine your fortune for the year. The Spring Festival was originally a ceremony to pray to gods for a good planting and harvest season. Like any good festival, food plays a central role. The exotic giant citrus, the pomelo, an ancient ancestor of the grapefruit holds a place of honor on the New Year table. The pomelo symbolizes prosperity and hope and is presented with leaves and stems in tact to ensure wholeness and balance.

I bought what I originally believed to be a grapefruit some years ago, but am suspicious its actually a pomelo due to the massive size of the fruit with thick pitted skin.  Though the fruit does grow in clusters like a grapefruit. The answer is possibly academic due to the close relationship between the two species. The pomelo looks like a grapefruit on steroids and is a non-hybrid citrus native to South-East Asia. The grapefruit is an accidental hybrid between the orange and pomelo originating in Barbados. China is one of the top producers of both.

I planted my grapefruit/pomelo facing north and espaliered it into a green wall that reaches some 4-5 metres from the ground to a deck which I can step onto and pick the high fruit.  I can also enjoy the beauty of the giant yellow orbs from the lounge-room. The tree is prolific, though only fruits every second year, probably due to the exhaustion of its alternate production. The fruit cling to the tree like great yellow balls for months. I only picked the last one in early April. I like to leave them on the tree as long as possible as they become sweeter with extended ripening and make a great breakfast juice. On hot days one must be wary walking past the tree in case it casts one of its fruits off onto your head. Death by grapefruit would be a bitter way to go!

I have not ventured past juicing or eating the fruit whole, but believe they are a great with salads (avocado, red onion and spinach) or segments added to fish before its baked. What are your great fruit (grapefruit) ideas?

Image: espaliered grapefruit/pomelo


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