The ugli is one ugly fruit and has the loose and leathery texture of an ancient parchment. But don’t be turned off by its mottled and scabby appearance. There’s more than meets the eye when it comes to the ugli fruit. So how did this unusual fruit come to be, and what sets it apart from your usual oranges, lemons, and other citrus fruits?
The Origins of Ugli Fruit
Tangelos have been the subject of crossbreeding since at least 1897, and the ugli fruit is one of the resulting variants. Described as “a deliberate or accidental hybrid of any mandarin orange and the grapefruit (Citrus paradisi) or pummelo (Citrus maxima)” by the Purdue University’s Horticulture & Landscape Architecture’s website, the ugli fruit (Citrus x tangelo) has a long and interesting lineage.
The ugli fruit was discovered in a Jamaican pasture in 1917 by an estate owner named G.G.R. Sharp. Sharp’s subsequent pollination efforts involved repeatedly regrafting the fruit with the fewest seeds onto the sour orange. By the 1930s he was exporting the resultant fruit to England and Canada and the ugli first arrived in New York in 1942.
Today, ugli has numerous “step-siblings,” such as Nova, Seminole, and Orlando. Another one, called the Minneola tangelo, is a Bowen grapefruit and Dancy tangerine cross that is grown in Yuma County, Arizona. In 2005 there were 2,500 acres of Minneola tangelos harvested, with a projected value of $3.2 million.
Not surprisingly, the ugli has a mix of characteristics from other citruses: it’s almost the same size as a grapefruit, but with a milder and sweeter taste. The sections inside are fibrous, and its base has a slight protrusion that looks like an outie navel. Meanwhile, its thick, yellow-green skin is so loose that it practically rolls out when you begin peeling it off.
The Ugli Fruit Offers a Wide Range of Health Benefits
As with all citrus fruits, the ugli fruit is an abundant source of immune-boosting vitamin C – giving you at least 70 percent of the recommended daily value. Vitamin C is also essential in fighting infections, collagen formation, and maintaining the elasticity of your arteries. Other essential nutrients in this fruit include calcium, vitamin A, and fiber.
Uglis are low in calories (with only 45 calories per serving), and are naturally fat- and cholesterol-free. They also have a low-glycemic index making them a much safer option than other fructose-loaded fruits. It also contains citric acid that may help prevent the formation of kidney stones.
A comprehensive report entitled “The Health Benefits of Citrus Fruits,” authored by Katrine Baghurst of Horticultural Australia Ltd., found that tangelos like ugli are loaded with beneficial micronutrient compounds – these include over 4,000 polyphenols and 60 flavonoids, such as catechins (flavonols), flavones, and anthocyanins. These healthful substances have shown antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-carcinogenic, anti-allergic benefits, and may protect against viruses, bacteria, and fungi.
Even the peel of ugli and other citrus fruits are beneficial. They contain coumarins that provide protection against tumorous cancers, once again proving the adage that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Where Can You Buy Ugli Fruit?
Uglis can be bought in most supermarkets between the months of April and November. Because of its unique appearance, you can’t miss it. You can use ugli fruit just like you would a pomelo – it can be added to salads, eaten with homemade yoghurt, or enjoyed on its own. Try adding it in your favorite vegetable juice as well, to add a little tanginess to your drink.
Don’t pass by ugli fruit just because of its ugly appearance – the beauty of this fruit is more than skin deep. It is an attractive and healthful citrus option that should not be dismissed because of mere aesthetics.