Ugli Fruit

Ugli fruit (Citrus reticulata x paradisi) is yet another fruit I enjoy oh so much.  If you don’t really care about the fruit but want to know about starting the seeds feel free to scroll down to the end of the post where I talk about trying to grow it.

Our good friend the grapefruit is standing in for a size comparison.  The grapefruit is on the left, Ugli on the right (in case the tag that says UGLI didn’t give that away).  Ugli fruit is thought to be a wild hybrid of a grapefruit (or possibly a pomelo), orange and tangerine.  They’re pretty much only grown in Jamaica, their country of origin.

The peel is fairly thick (but no where near as thick as the pomelo)  The tangerine parentage is most apparent at this point because the skin just flakes off the flesh with hardly any effort.

Once peeled the segments look quite a bit like grapefruit but pale orange instead of pink or white.

When in season these are one of the tastiest fruits I know of.  The flavor is an interesting combination of grapefruit and orange, neither flavor really dominating.  The flesh is exceedingly juicy and I’m not really sure I’ve ever found a seed in one.  Another really grapefruit-like characteristic of this fruit is the thickness of the membrane between segments.  I don’t like it very much (too chewy) but the fruit is so juicy that I usually just bite off the end of the segment and such the pulp out of each segment.  This is another fruit that I think would make amazing juice.  WHY CAN’T THEY SELL JUICE FROM THIS?!

So after all that you might be considering buying one to try yourself.  I’d consider getting a move on it, their season isn’t horribly long (I only ever see them between December and February).  I promise you won’t be upset by your decision, as long as you like citrus.

Picking one out:

Color – This part can be a bit tricky…or not.  It can be intimidating because the display table will probably have them ranging from solid green to solid golden orange/yellow and every combination of those two colors in between.  I personally find the greener they are the stronger the flavor.  This particular one was a little bit on the sweet side (I prefer them to be a bit more tart).  Long story short they’re all going to be ready to eat in the grocery so you shouldn’t be concerned about that.

Size – Every time I’ve ever seen them for sale they’re all just about the exact same size so this shouldn’t be a huge deal.

Weight – The heavier the better.  Heavy ones are generally the really juicy ones and that’s what you’re going for.  Stay away from light weights, they’re the old ones that are going to taste sawdusty.

Feel – They should be slightly springy.  The peel is really loose you should be able to feel this by picking it up (just like a clementine or tangerine).  Hard ones would probably be under ripe (not that I’d know…I’ve never encountered a hard one) and super soft ones are well on their way to rot-city.

And now to make this semi-planty!

What to do with the seeds:

Saving them –

These are citrus and like all citrus the seeds can never dry out or they lose viability.  If you’re not exceptionally dorky like me and you don’t have empty pots of dirt sitting around for the occasion that you might have seeds that need immediate planting you can always keep them in a zip-lock bag on a moist paper towel for a day or two (but not much more than that!).  They’re best planted immediately after taking them out and washing them.

Starting the seeds-

As I said the seeds have to be planted pretty quick.  It’s best to start them in a small pot of sterilized potting media.  Make sure to water the soil really well.  Knowing when to do the next watering is a bit tricky.  Citrus hate to stay wet but seedlings can’t get super dry either.  If you really love to water your plants you can grow them in cactus media that dries out a lot faster and you can water more frequently.

Growing them on-

Note: I’ve never grown ugli fruit from seed so I’m just going to go with my basic citrus care.  They’re a hybrid fruit and do not come true to type.  In fact I’m pretty sure there are no citrus that come true from seed, but unless you live in a tropical climate there is a pretty good chance you’re never going to get your plant to fruit anyways so that’s not generally a huge issue.  You’ll get a nice shiny green plant with amazingly scented flowers and if you’re super lucky you might have a fruit worth eating (but probably not).

Sun -I’m not exactly the worlds expert on growing citrus (I’ve never really had much luck) but I do know they LOVE sun.  I’m not sure they can get too much.

Water – Watering is the trickiest part.  Too much water and they rot in the blink of an eye.  Too little water and the leaves dry up.  If you catch them before they curl up they should be fine but if the leaves curl up and your plant is smaller than a few feet tall you’re probably out of luck.  There is a good chance it’ll drop all of it’s leaves (and in my experience just plain old die).  The best way to avoid watering issues is to make sure it’s not in too large of a pot (less soil = less wetness!).  Terra cotta pots also help.

Food – Citrus aren’t heavy feeders so occasional doses of an all purpose fertilizer should be sufficient.

Potting Soil – The more well drained the better.  I’ve had them in cactus soil before and that gave me my best results (however with the nice long Minnesota winters the plants never really got enough sun so I threw them out when they started being too ugly for words).

Holy cow that got a little long winded… I hope you enjoyed it anyways!

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3 thoughts on “Ugli Fruit

  1. Hey, the ugli fruit I ate had one large seed for every segment, it was the only downfall of the fruit. I planted them right away into some pretty well aerated soil which should drain well enough and had them in a window box, which gets a good amount of light. To my surprise at least 80% of the seeds sprouted and grew. They lasted a while, almost a year. Never got taller than 9″ or so but I held hope. Then I noticed that they all started wilting and the leaves turned brown. It was an unusually heavy winter for us NYers and the early spring here hasn’t exactly been warm and sunny. I’m still keeping hope that they’ll recover but two that went this way early on haven’t so it might be hope against hope. Next time I’ll try the cactus medium and think about supplemental lighting. Just thought I’d share my experience. Thanks for listening!

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