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Jamaican Ugli fruit is a delicious, gourmet tangelo -- grapefruit, orange, and tangerine hybrid

The Jamaican Ugli fruit is a delicious tangelo: a cross between grapefruit, orange, and tangerine.
The Jamaican Ugli fruit is a delicious tangelo: a cross between grapefruit, orange, and tangerine.
Photo by the author

The Ugli fruit (pronounced "ugly," and capitalized intentionally) from Jamaica is considered to be an exotic tangelo, and it has room in that distinction in the growing list of gourmet citrus fruits available in the North American (and Knoxvillian) market. It also lives up to it's name: it's pretty gnarly looking on the outside with a thick, knobbly yellow and green skin, odd shape, and large size -- about the size of a grapefruit -- though what's inside this Jamaican hybrid citrus is pure gold. Thus, the external appearance of an Ugli fruit, which can be frightening, is a bit of a shame for folks that are deterred from trying it.

If the fact that it is hybridized with grapefruit leaves you a bit wary of trying it despite the previous paragraph, rest assured that the fruit inside is honey sweet. Other than its rather significant size, very little of the Ugli fruit's characteristics reminds one of a grapefruit, except perhaps that it is also extremely juicy, perhaps one of the juiciest citrus fruits available. The taste of the delicious Ugli fruit is just a bit tart but predominantly that of a very sweet orange or tangerine, so if you love Satsumas or other tangerines, you're bound to love their less attractive, large, Jamaican cousins.

The thick, knobbly skin of the Ugli fruit also serves as a deterrent in that it's quite unappealing to look at... unless you know what's inside that rind! First, the thick peel of the Ugli fruit is shockingly easy to remove, often coming off in just a few very large pieces with little or no effort. Second, what's inside is a delicious, sweet citrus that essentially explodes with bright, juicy flavor with almost every bite into the segments. It's also large enough for sharing, or for quite a significant snack if you're feeling a bit greedy: the edible interior of the fruit is round and about the size of a medium-large orange that hasn't yet been peeled, making it well worth the $1.50-2 that you'll pay for a single Ugli fruit, even in peak season (now).

To be more precise about the flavor and texture of the juice inside the Ugli fruit, the plentiful juice is light and smooth with a distinct note of honey in a predominantly sweet-citrus flavor. So, for citrus lovers, these interesting fruits are a must-try and one that you'll find yourself picking up again and again when you see them.

Buy them locally! You can get this Jamaican treasure in Knoxville occasionally at your local grocery store, so keep an eye open for them, particularly when they're in peak season in the first part of the year. They are quite frequently available at the specialty grocers in Knoxville as well: both locations of The Fresh Market and of Earth Fare frequently have these gems.

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