Grapefruits have the highest heat requirement of all citrus varieties. They grow best and develop peak flavor early in the season in areas with hot summer climates such as Texas and Florida and parts of California and Arizona. In areas that don’t get the intense summer heat the fruit needs to sit on the tree longer until at least late spring or summer. Organic grapefruits are one of the few domestic citrus that are available for most of the year.
Hyde Ranch, one of Earl’s relatively new citrus growers, is located in the scenic avocado and citrus agriculture area of Pauma Valley in San Diego County, California. Hyde is nestled in the valley and faces beautiful Mt. Palomar State Park, complete with their own observatory. Their citrus season will go on longer than many growers because part of their property sits in the shade. One side lets them start early in the season and the other side of the property allows them to go later as the sun shifts against the hillside in October and November. Just like many areas of California, Pauma Valley has its own micro climate. According to Lance Hyde, “It is amazing. You can take a 2 mile walk and there will be warm belts because of the hills. It literally feels 5 degrees warmer, it is really strange. This is why you see fruit growing on the hillsides.” The hot days and the chilly nights brings out the sugars and color in the fruit. Lance also firmly believes that there is a strong correlation between the rich, dark soil on the ranch and the sweetness of his fruit.
Lance Hyde, like many emerging farmers, did not grow up on a farm or dream of working in agriculture. He was a workaholic for 23 years in the real estate field until he fell sick for a few years. Lance decided it was time for a healthy and organic lifestyle. He became a vegetarian and wanted a new career where he was working in the outdoor air. In 2004 Lance bought an existing 82 acre organic citrus farm with grapefruits and oranges and added lemons and avocados to the mix. He work on the farm with his wife, parents and 5 kids ranging from 2 to 11 years old.
Lance grows red and pink grapefruits including the Star Ruby and Marsh Ruby. Grapefruits are categorized as either white fleshed or pigmented and the Star Ruby has the deepest color out of all the pigmented varieties. The flesh is a deep red and although they are small for a grapefruit, they are not as acidic as other varieties. The season starts around April and as we get into summer the fruit will become sweeter and less acidic. Lances daughter Mikayla says they are “really sweet and good” and she loves to cut them up into quarters and eat them with a spoon. Look for the Star Ruby grapefruit through May and then they will be back again for a limited appearance in September/October.
In a few weeks the Marsh Grapefruit will be coming on and the season continues through October. A light pink variety with good flavor, it is one of the most popular varieties grown because it holds on the tree for long periods of time, perfect for ripening in areas without high heat. I love adding my grapefruit to a kale salad. Click here for sweet and savory kale with grapefruit and avocado salad.