by Robert Waltz
Not for the faint of art.
|Ever wonder about grapefruit?
Grapefruit Is One of the Weirdest Fruits on the Planet
From its name, to its hazy origins, to its drug interactions, there’s a lot going on beneath that thick rind.
You know, there are quite a few weird fruits on the planet. Durian comes to mind. And wtf is up with breadfruit? But yeah, okay, maybe grapefruit is a bit weird, especially since grapes are already fruits and they have nothing to do with citrus so what's with the name?
Right from the moment of its discovery, the grapefruit has been a true oddball. Its journey started in a place where it didn’t belong, and ended up in a lab in a place where it doesn’t grow. Hell, even the name doesn’t make any sense.
The current theory is that somewhere around five or six million years ago, one parent of all citrus varieties splintered into separate species, probably due to some change in climate. Three citrus fruits spread widely: the citron, the pomelo, and the mandarin.
You don't see pomelo much around here. I have a vague memory of eating one, long ago, in a foreign land. At the time, I thought it was a cross between an orange and a grapefruit. I guess that was backwards.
With the exception of those weirdos like the finger lime, all other citrus fruits are derived from natural and, before long, artificial crossbreeding, and then crossbreeding the crossbreeds, and so on, of those three fruits. Mix certain pomelos and certain mandarins and you get a sour orange. Cross that sour orange with a citron and you get a lemon. It’s a little bit like blending and reblending primary colors. Grapefruit is a mix between the pomelo—a base fruit—and a sweet orange, which itself is a hybrid of pomelo and mandarin.
Yeah, I know. I got lost too.
Speaking of all these names, let’s discuss the word “grapefruit.” It’s commonly stated that the word comes from the fact that grapefruits grow in bunches, like grapes. There’s a pretty decent chance that this isn’t true. In 1664, a Dutch physician named Wouter Schouden visited Barbados and described the citrus he sampled there as “tasting like unripe grapes.” In 1814, John Lunan, a British plantation and slave owner from Jamaica, reported that this fruit was named “on account of its resemblance in flavour to the grape.”
This is largely guesswork, almost all of it, because citrus is a delightfully chaotic category of fruit. It hybridizes so easily that there are undoubtedly thousands, maybe more, separate varieties of citrus in the wild and in cultivation.
Seriously, though, the vast variety of citrus and its ease of modification is pretty fascinating.
The article goes on to describe how grapefruit, and other citrus, led to Florida becoming Florida, so there's another reason for me to hate grapefruit.
It also talks about the very interesting discovery that grapefruit completely fucks with some medications.
Now, I've said this before but I'll say it again: I've never liked grapefruit. I mean, I never really hated it; if it's there I'll eat it but I never sought it out, or deliberately obtained grapefruit juice to drink. It was just something that was there. That is, until I started taking a statin, at which point I got really intense cravings for grapefruit.
The surest way to get me to want something is to tell me I can't have it. I mean, it's possible that if someone told me "you can't eat eggplant or your blood pressure will go through the roof," I'd want to go out and buy bushels of eggplant.
Possible, but I doubt it. At least I always acknowledged that grapefruit was edible.
Anyway, I'm not going to quote the circuitous part of the article that goes into the discovery of grapefruit interactions, but basically, it can have the effect of making us metabolize more of certain medicines than expected.
I know a guy who takes advantage of this. He's poor and has shit insurance, so he stretches out his statin supply by taking 1/2 the recommended dose and munching on grapefruit.
Pretty sure that's not recommended.
“There are a fair number of drugs that have the potential to produce very serious side effects,” says Bailey. “Kidney failure, cardiac arrhythmia that’s life-threatening, gastrointestinal bleeding, respiratory depression.” A cardiac arrhythmia messes with how the heart pumps, and if it stops pumping, the mortality rate is about 20 percent. It’s hard to tell from the statistics, but it seems all but certain that people have died from eating grapefruit.
And see, I'd rather die from eating something that I actually like.