For most of my life, I thought I didn’t like grapefruit. I loved the flavour — grapefruit seltzer is the tops — and the scent, but the actual fruit? Too bitter, even with sugar dumped on top (how my dad always used to eat it) and too messy (the number of times I squirted myself in the eye with citrus juice while attempting to scoop out a bite). But it turns out, I was just doing everything wrong.
Grapefruit does tend to have a more bitter tang than an orange or a lemon, and you can blame a chemical known as naringin, a flavonoid found in the peels of many citrus fruits, but in a much greater abundance in grapefruit. All that naringin makes the chewy, fibrous parts of the fruit — the “white stuff,” or pith — taste quite bitter. Just how bitter you think it tastes seems to vary based on your genetics. That might mean grapefruit just isn’t your thing, but maybe it just means you’re eating way too much of the white stuff.
Until a few years ago, I typically attempted to eat a grapefruit with a regular old spoon, which is basically impossible without creating a huge, dripping mess. It also typically meant that I was scraping out large portions of pith with every bite, which probably explains why I had trouble tasting the sweetness of the juice under all that bitterness. (Yes, I knew grapefruit spoons existed, but I never owned one, for I had no desire to purchase a utensil designed for the consumption of a fruit I didn’t like.)
Then one day, faced with a bowl of free grapefruit in the office kitchen, I decided to give it another go. Because I didn’t want to get juice all over my desk in the attempt, I googled “easiest way to eat a grapefruit” and landed upon an easy, neat, and nearly foolproof option. It’s the first one outlined in the video below (though the source where I originally found it has been lost to time):
In short, as Erica Lea, who also writes about food at Buttered Side Up, explains, before you use a spoon to dig out the fruit from a halved grapefruit, you need to use a sharp knife with a serrated edge to carve out around and in between each section in order to separate the good stuff from the bitter membrane. Once you’ve done this enough times, you’ll get pretty good at it — I can prep both halves in about a minute — and if you’ve done your job right, you’ll wind up eating very nearly all of the juicy part and very little of the pith.
Because I am open-minded, I also attempted the other methods Erica outlines in her video. She’s obviously much more skilled at prep than I am, but I found all of them basically impossible without making a huge mess.
- Method 2 (peel and section it like an orange) is tricky and time-consuming (for me — she describes it as quick, hmm) and you wind up eating a lot more pith.
- Method 3 (cut it into sections and then trim away the peel) looks pretty but, again, leaves you with a lot of pith.
- Method 4 (which is Method 2, but you peel each individual section after separating them) is basically impossible, as the membrane around each section is difficult to remove without mangling the fruit inside.
- Method 5 (Erica’s preferred option) requires a lot of skill with a knife and a lot of tedious pith removal, and is basically just Method 1 (which is, I’ll remind you, the best way to eat a grapefruit), but first you have to peel the fruit. I’ll stick with with what I know, thanks. But then again, she does call it the “pro” method, and I am definitely not a pro.