Three More Red Fruits to Explore

In “Seeing Red” in the March issue of School Nutrition, Kelsey Casselbury takes a look at the fruits found in the red and pink color category based on the Produce for Better Health Foundation’s “5 A Day The Color Way” campaign. Follow along for additional online-only content about some of the other fruits in this category.

Just like the blood orange, the yellowish-orange peel of a grapefruit belies the pink and red hues within. But, just like other citrus fruit, the grapefruit is an excellent source of vitamin C, which supports the immune system—you just have to acclimate to this fruit’s slightly sour, slightly bitter flavor first.

If you really can’t get past the flavor of fresh grapefruit, sticking it under the broiler after topping it with a sprinkle of brown sugar and cinnamon might help—the heat and seasonings transform that tangy flavor into something slightly mellower. You’ll not only get that aforementioned vitamin C, but a healthy serving of lycopene, a phytonutrient that appears in red fruits and vegetables (most notably, tomatoes). However, to get this benefit, be sure to choose the ruby red or pink varieties of grapefruit—white varieties lacks this antioxidant.

Given that the grapefruit is related to oranges and lemons, what the heck is the story with its name? It refers to how the orbs are arranged as they grow—in clusters like grapes. Grapefruits were discovered fairly recently, relatively speaking, first noted in Barbados in the 18th century. Today it’s grown throughout warm U.S. climates, particularly Florida, California, Arizona and Texas.

In a strange twist of circumstances, there are cases where grapefruit should be avoided (and not just by students who claim to not like it). A number of medications can be affected by the consumption of grapefruit and grapefruit juice. Among these are certain cholesterol-lowering drugs, psychiatric medications, birth controls and estrogen treatments. Incidents and interactions are rare, but you should take a moment to check the label or instructions on your prescription drugs before pouring a glass of refreshing grapefruit juice or digging into the fruit.

If you’re in the clear, you can peel and eat the grapefruit like an orange. Other suggestions include using it as a topping for whole-grain cereal or even tossing it with greens, cheese and nuts for a salad—perhaps even adding a bit of chilled shrimp or other shellfish for protein.

It’s a dilemma as old as time (as least it is for grape lovers): red or green? In fact, grapes come in many more colors, including black, yellow, purple and even pink—there are more than 8,000 varieties hailing from 60 distinct species of grape. The good news is that whether you pick red or green, the nutrition within will be just about the same—one cup offers only some 100 calories, but more than a quarter of the daily recommended amounts of vitamins K and C. But red grapes might offer one advantage: A 2013 study published inMolecular Nutrition and Food Research concluded that red grapes, along with blueberries, can boost your immune system due to certain compounds found in these dark-colored berries.

Are there any red flags about seeded versus seedless grapes? You might guess that the seedless varieties are genetically modified. Actually, they’re typically the result of a natural mutation or produced by simple crossbreeding or grafting. In addition, some experts argue that there are minor health benefits found in the edible seeds.

Of course, you know that grapes are the main ingredient in the production of wine, but you might be surprised as to how much of the worldwide grape harvesting is devoted solely to winemaking: a whopping 71%, says the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. Less than one-third of all grape production is dedicated to fresh fruit availability or processing into jams, juices and raisins. No one can argue the appeal of consuming grapes fresh as a snack, but they also make for a unique cooked ingredient in a variety of dishes. The California Table Grape Commission—the Golden State produces more than 90% of all commercially grown grapes in the United States—recommends baking them into pies, tarts or breads, roasting them alongside vegetables, using them in a sauce to top proteins or sautéing them with olive oil.

If you consider pears to be a green fruit, no one would blame you. Peridot-colored Bartlett and Anjou pears might be more common than their counterparts, but the red-hued versions are no less nutritious or delicious. Red Anjous and Red Bartletts are both colder-weather fruits with seasons lasting from late summer to mid-winter or spring.

The difference between red and green pears is a natural variation, but you’ll find that the two hues taste very similar, meaning you can use them in the same capacities—whether it’s offering up fresh pear slices, sautéing or baking them or slicing them into salads. However, the red-skinned versions bestow a striking color palette in a salad, contrasting against the green of the lettuce.

There’s one other type of red pear, the Starkrimson, which features a crimson red skin—the riper it is, the brighter the hue. Some might consider the Comice pear to be red, but this colorful varietal is mostly green with a red blush in certain spots. Both of these varietals, along with the Red Bartlett, taste best fresh; their consistencies easily can get mushy and their flavor lackluster when cooked.

However, no matter which type you buy, you’ll be getting a solid nutritional profile. A medium pear contains 24% of the recommended daily allowance of fiber, along with 190 milligrams of potassium, a hefty dose of vitamin C, and all of this for only an estimated 100 calories. To determine a pear’s ripeness, check its neck by pressing gently near the stem. When it gives a little, it’s ready to eat; a pear that’s soft in the middle is overripe.

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