From Little Seeds Grow Mighty Trees: The History of Texas Red Grapefruit

Texas is known for its ruby red sweet and juicy grapefruit, but this incredible fruit isn’t native to America. Grapefruit seeds traveled many miles before making their way to South Texas, where they evolved into the delicious fruit we enjoy today!

When grapefruit arrived in America, grapefruit growers helped develop new varieties of the fruit, a variety that continues to be a source of pride for Texas. Read on to learn more about the history of Texas grapefruit and how Texas Rio Red grapefruit growers got started.

Grapefruit’s Journey to America

Grapefruit was first discovered in the West Indies in the 1700s. Originally called the “forbidden fruit”, grapefruit was renamed by a Jamaican farmer in the 1800s because of how it grows in a cluster. Grapefruits are a hybrid of a pummelo and a sweet orange, and at that time only came in white or pink varieties. Around 1823, it is believed that Spanish and French settlers brought grapefruit seeds to Florida, and from there Spanish missionaries brought grapefruit seeds to Texas.

A New Fruit for Texas

In 1893, the first reported grapefruit grove was planted in Texas. At first, Texas grapefruit growers planted white grapefruit trees, eventually followed by pink varieties. Originally from Nebraska, John H. Shary believed that grapefruit was the crop of the future for Texas. In 1920, six years after purchasing 16,000 acres, Shary’s first commercial white grapefruit shipment left the Rio Grande Valley. Shary was called the “Father of the Citrus Industry” because his determination and new irrigation techniques helped develop the industry in America.

It wasn’t until 1929 that red grapefruit varieties were discovered growing on pink grapefruit trees. Each grapefruit varied in color and was given a new name by its grower, causing confusion in the industry; therefore, red grapefruit varieties were eventually all given the name ”Ruby”. After weather freezes in 1949, 1951, and 1962 affected the growth of grapefruit, Dr. Richard Hensz introduced the process of using ionizing radiation on grapefruits to make them redder. In 1984, the reddest grapefruit of all was discovered — the Rio Red grapefruit.

Enjoy the Taste of Grapefruit with Winter Sweetz

Texas grapefruit growers have chosen to focus on growing red grapefruits rather than the white and pink varieties because red grapefruits are so unique. In South Texas, the subtropical weather, fertile soil, and sunny skies are the perfect growing conditions for red grapefruit. Texas Rio Red grapefruit growers at Winter Sweetz are proud to offer the sweetest and juiciest of all Texas Rio Red grapefruits to wholesaler grapefruit sellers throughout the country. 

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