When opportunity knocks, I have to take advantage.
Yesterday I had to run an errand across town. While I was out and about, I decided to go ahead and take care of some other tasks, too. As a result, I went to a grocery store where I don’t usually shop. After picking up a basket and turning the corner leading to the produce section, I saw this:
I had heard of ugli fruit before, but didn’t think they were actually real; I thought they were a made-up fruit. Yet here was a full display of huge, round, bumpy, bright green items, with the label “ugli” plastered all over them… So apparently ugli fruit really does exist. Interesting!
I walked over to the display, reached for a fruit – and then paused. I realized I had no idea how to select a “good” fruit. Should a ripe ugli fruit be heavy or light? Should it be uniform in color, or mottled? Should the skin be as bumpy as possible, or only slightly so? It was strange for me to have literally no idea what ‘good’ was…. After visually skimming all of the options, I selected a fruit that looked like an “average” specimen of all the ones available.
When I returned home, I put the ugli fruit on the kitchen counter; I reasoned that since the fruit was displayed in the grocery store at room temperature, it should probably remain there (versus being stored in the refrigerator). A few hours later I began thinking about what to make for dinner, and thought I might as well sample the ugli fruit to see what I was dealing with – at which point, I had another interesting awareness: I had no idea how to prepare or consume the fruit. I suspected it had to be peeled in some way – but then what? Eat it as-is (like a banana)? Does it have seeds that need to removed (like an apple)? Or does it have a bunch of seeds inside that are the primary thing that should be eaten (like a pomegranate)? I had no clue. Time to do some research.
I popped onto the internet, and quickly found an entire website dedicated to ugli fruit (predictably, www.ugli.com). [Who knew?] After a few clicks around the simple site, I was informed that the ugli fruit is “an exotic tangelo from Jamaica”. I didn’t know what a ‘tangelo’ was (yet another word I have never seen before), so I looked it up – and learned that a tangelo is a hybrid citrus fruit, a cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit. “Ugli” is a branding name (kind of like how little clementines are sold as “cuties”, or cotton swabs are sold as “Q-tips”). When I read this, I admit that I felt duped; an ugli fruit was just a glorified grapefruit?? Aw, man…
Still. A tangelo/ugli fruit is not the exact same thing as a grapefruit, so I guess trying this fruit still “counts” towards my fulfillment of #74. I’ll continue with the “ugli” exploration…
Returning to the ugli website, I also learned that the average fruit contains two servings, and that each serving is around 45 calories. Uglis do contain seeds, and the seeds are not intended to be eaten. As far as consuming the actual fruit, two main preparation options exist: an ugli can either be peeled like an orange, or sectioned like a grapefruit. I’m a fan of peeling (as I think it is less work overall), so that’s the approach I took:
The outer peel came off the fruit very easily. The peel was rather thick, and felt a bit like very soft alligator skin. Cool.
Beneath the outer peel was a pretty hefty white membrane that clung to the interior fruit. Removing the membrane wasn’t too much of a hassle; once the membrane was removed I sensed a faint, mild citrus smell coming from the fruit.
Having gotten to the flesh of the ugli, I separated the fruit into two halves, then broke apart one half of the fruit into its natural sections. Holy cats, the sections were HUGE!
I bit into the first third of one section of fruit – and juice exploded inside my mouth (and a few dribbles escaped past my lips, too). But I successfully severed the first bite of ugli from the rest of the section, and started chewing. And chewing. And chewing. After 20 seconds of chewing, I realized that I was probably not going to be able to actually consume the inner membrane of the fruit – there was just too much of it. Out of curiosity, I chewed that small segment of ugli until I could swallow it – and it took 53 seconds. No lie. Yikes.
From that point on, I chewed each segment of ugli until I had extracted all of the juice and most of the pulp, then spat out the remaining membrane. And even after I gave each piece of membrane a thorough chomping, each one left my mouth still pretty much in tact. Wowzers. This experience kind of reminded me of consuming small wax soda-bottle candy as a kid; sure, technically you could chew on the wax after you drank the sweet syrup – but no one really ever did.
So while the good people at ugli.com advocate two different methods to eat a tangelo, I think I would have been better off if I had followed the cut-like-a-grapefruit method to consume this fruit.
Still, I got to the interior of the fruit, and tasted both the juice and the pulp, and found it all to be very… mild. It wasn’t super-citrusy like an orange, and it wasn’t overly bitter like a grapefruit. It was just… average. Un-offensive. Middle-of-the-road. If an ugli fruit could talk, it would probably say, “Ah, whatever.”
I imagine uglis would be good for juicing (you could probably get a glass of juice out of a single fruit with minimal effort), but I can’t imagine eating them as a fruit very often (unless they were consumed like a sectioned grapefruit – but as I said earlier, sectioning is annoying to me. In fact, I’m so irritated by sectioning that I haven’t had a grapefruit in over 20 years). So, I probably won’t buy an ugli again, but it was fun to try it once! 🙂 At least I now know what I’m not missing.