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People, Raise Your Spoons: It’s Time to Bring the Grapefruit Back

People, Raise Your Spoons: It’s Time to Bring the Grapefruit Back

Let’s talk about grapefruit. These days, who cares about grapefruit? In the mid-1970s, it was a huge hit. One of the most popular fruits around. Then, sales plummeted by 70%, never to recover. Never meaning NOT YET! So, let’s bring the grapefruit back! As Americans, it’s our duty. And if you’re not American? Care about it, anyway. In celebrating, loving, and eating grapefruit, you’re opening the door to a universe of new taste sensations, enjoyed in a day when dinner parties were a social requirement; meals started with an appetizer; and grapefruit-recipes were more than all the rage… they were a proclamation of culinary innovation and good taste.

Meet the Family


Besides, grapefruits are eclectic. They make a great dessert, are perfect in salad, are a must in certain cocktails, have high health value, what with all the Vitamin C, and had jaw-dropping medicinal attributes when they rose to significance in the late 1800s. These attributes, I should add, have been ignored by modern science but, they’ve been so ignored, they’ve never been disproven. Modern science does give us a few warnings about grapefruit, however, especially when it interacts with modern drugs. Don’t worry. More about that to come.

Grapefruit History: A Remarkably Murky, Mystery-Infused Story


Question: Where did grapefruit originate? Answer: Hummmm…Like all things, grapefruit, the answer is shrouded in mystery. Here’s what we know. All citrus plants evolved in Asia. Except grapefruit. That was spawned in the Caribbean, most likely Barbados, as recorded in 1664 by a Dutch physician visiting Barbados, or possibly in Jamaica, as witnessed by one Patrick Browne in 1789. Were these trees actually the grapefruit? Yes, they were or maybe they were, and possibly they morphed into today’s grapefruit.


The mystery hinges on the fact that grapefruit, while neatly presented in grocery shelves, is a wild plant at heart. It spread, was ignored, cut down, and possibly disparaged in the Caribbean where it originated. Certainly other citrus plants were growing on the islands at that time…which makes the grapefruit’s origin story even harder to define. Citrus plants cross-pollenate easily and it’s likely that untold varieties appeared and vanished over the centuries. And one of them was the grapefruit.


That said, here are a few facts to give you comfort: Grapefruits, like most citruses, developed from a single plant that grew five, maybe 6 million years ago in today’s Asia. The earliest citrus broke into numerous other citruses. Three of them compose the DNA of today’s citrus favorites: citrons, a lumpy, lemon-looking fruit; mandarins, the sweet (literally) orange-ish fruit most Americans usually buy in tins; and the pomelo, that overgrown grapefruit-looking specimen we see in markets and believe is an off-shoot of the grapefruit, not the parent. We have the pomelo to thank for the bitterness in citrus fruits today.


Eventually explorers, among them botanists, brought citrus plants to the warm, humid soils of the Caribbean where they ran wild and somehow spawned the grapefruit we know today. Or, they were scientifically developed. See – it’s a mystery.


Why the Name? Grapefruit?

Why “grapefruit?” It seems the name could come from two places: The taste which early explorers thought tasted like a grape. As it happens, that was in the Caribbean where, at the time grapes did not grow. Another possibility: baby grapefruit grows in clusters much like grapes. Ok – either possibility merits speculation. A previous name, which makes even less sense, is the “Forbidden Fruit” and, early on, the “shaddock,” possibly for Captain Philip Chaddock, who may or may not have introduced the pomelo to the Caribbean. The problem is “shaddock” was, in fact, also the name of the pomelo.


Grapefruit in the US: The Ascension of a WILD Fruit Tree

Grapefruit – Early 1800s

You will not be surprised to know that no one knows exactly how the grapefruit wound up in the U.S. It seems a Frenchman brought the first grapefruit to Florida in 1823, where an American transplant to Florida planted the seeds and established the first grapefruit nursery in 1870. In 1892, Kimball Chase Atwood, a successful insurance guy from Maine, bought 265 acres of forest, burned it down, and planted 16,000 grapefruit trees. Meanwhile, groves sprouted up in Texas and Arizona where they are cultivated today.

The end. Almost. Because, remember, the grapefruit tree wild at heart. In 1910, one of Atwood’s workers discovered that a tree was producing pink grapefruits. They started selling pink grapefruits, people loved them, and in 1929, the official Ruby Red grapefruit was born.

The U.S. is now the #2 grower of grapefruit in the world (China is #1) and the largest consumer of the mysterious fruit. But its standing is nothing like it was in the mid-1900s!


Grapefruit in the US: The Glory Days


Grapefruit lurched into popularity in the early 1900s, became the most decadent and multi-faceted fruit around, reached a crescendo in the 1970s, (helped in part by the “grapefruit diet” a wonder of modern marketing if nothing else) and suddenly went downhill. But why? That question to be discussed.


Throughout the first half of the 1900s, grapefruit was enjoyed as a breakfast food, a dessert, an appetizer, and a drink mix. But its presence was more – so much more. I remember visits to my grandmother in her rented apartment in Brookline, Mass, just outside of Boston. This was in the 1960s and early ‘70s. Before the meal she served an appetizer of a grapefruit half. But NOT any grapefruit half! It was neatly segmented with a grapefruit cutter, the individual pieces rising from the shell, and sprinkled deliciously with sugar. My Nana, who lived in a good-sized house with plenty of gold picture frames and a sunken living room, served the same, although hers was on a bed of lettuce. I later found a version at a she-she restaurant in Brooklyn – the sugar on top burnt a la crème brulee, served in a shapely bowl and costing well over $10.00.


But even that doesn’t rival the originals. The renowned Boston Cooking School Cookbook, written by the renowned Fannie Merritt Farmer, offers us this for broiled or baked grapefruit in the 1941 edition: Put one tablespoon brown sugar, and, if desired one tablespoon of French dressing or, (as commonly suggested in other recipes) one tablespoon or sherry or brandy in each half. Bake or broil and serve as a first course or dessert.

Boston Cooking School Cookbook

Then there’s the Grapefruit a la Russe: Wipe three grapefruits, cut in halves crosswise, and remove seeds and tough portions. Sprinkle with granulated sugar and chill in refrigerator. Beat 1 cup of heavy cream until stiff and add two tablespoons of powdered sugar, a few grains of salt, and ½ a teaspoon of maraschino. Make a border of the cream (using a pastry bag and tube) on top of each half in the form of a square. Garnish at each corner with a glace or maraschino cherry. Serve in double cocktail glasses, having the larger ones filled with crushed ice. Makes 16.


See what I mean? Grapefruit is way more complex than one would imagine. But wait until you see what’s in the Gold Cookbook (1947). Master Chef Louis P. DeGouy recommends four grapefruit recipes – the Grapefruit Rainbow alone takes a page to describe. The Grapefruit Aspic Annette is shorter, albeit complicated. Even the name is hard to pronounce. Here’s what he recommends:

“Soak 2 tablespoons of granulated gelatin in ½ cup cold grapefruit juice and dissolve in 2 cups of grapefruit juice that has been heated to boiling point. Decorate the bottom with an oiled straight mold (oir individual ones) with sections of grapefruit from which all the white membranes have been carefully removed; cut each section in tow crosswise. Pour in gently enough of the cooled gelatin mixture barely to cover the grapefruit. Chill and arrange another layer of the grapefruit sections. Repeat with the gelatin mixture barely to cover; let set and cover with a thin layer (about 1 inch) of peeled, cored, cubed apples. Cover with more gelatin then let set, then fill entirely with grapefruit sections. Pour into gelatin mixture to completely fill the mold and place in the refrigerator to set. Unmold on a large, chilled platter on a bed of crisp, young watercress, dipped in French dressing and thoroughly shake. Decorate with small designs of mayonnaise forced through a pastry bag, using a small, fancy tube. Serve at once.”

Author’s note: Exhausted? Once finished, make this refreshing grapefruit drink from 1912, and you’ll recover – being sure to keep the last ingredient!

Or how about this recipe from 1945 – VERY Fancy, VERY Post – Prohibition. Reminds me of a Bloody Mary…only better (if that’s possible):

And so it goes…until more recently, when it almost stopped.
Pomelo and Orange. The making of Grapefruit



The Current End of the Grapefruit Craze


Why has the grapefruit craze ended? Like everything else, the answer is somewhat of a mystery. A Washington Post article (2015) tells us that in 1976, grapefruit was among the most popular fruits in the U.S. with the average American eating about 25 pounds of grapefruit a year. Today, that number has dropped 70%. Add in grapefruit processed for such things as juice, the number nose-dives to almost 80 percent.

Grapefruit AD – 1970s

One reason may be related to health. Grapefruit can trigger negative reactions to certain drugs such as Nifediac, which lowers blood pressure, Buspar, used for anxiety, and Allegra, an antihistamine. Still lots of people need to avoid lots of foods. For example, peanuts can create a deadly toxic reaction in some people, but they remain popular in everything from candy bars to Thai food.


Unlike peanuts, grapefruit was thought to have near miraculous health benefits. An article in the Monroe Journal of 1896 sings the grapefruit’s praises while adding to the confusion. They say: “The grape-fruit or shaddock, so called for its discoverer Lieutenant Shaddock, – or to mention its soft Chinese name – pumelo… is highly prized by those who live in malarial localities.” They add: “…if you are of a bilious temperament eat grapefruit… if fevers threaten, eat grapefruit.” Grapefruit vs grape-fruit, Lieutenant Shaddock vs Captain Philip Chaddock, Pumelo VS Pomelo and Pomelo as Grapefruit vs Pomelo as part of grapefruit and. Who cares? The health benefits (or not) are the same.

Perhaps the problem lies in the juice aisle. People are drinking less juice, which contains a high quantity of sugar, and have more juice choices. As a kid growing up in the ‘60s, I never thought of drinking pomegranate juice. I don’t believe I even knew what a pomegranate was. Today, we have organic and sugar-free pomegranate juice, pomegranate-grape juice, and pomegranate juice cocktail. How can grapefruit compete?


Besides, trends in food are an inexplicable and ever-shifting phenomena. People rarely smoke cigars. Eat hardly any Jell-O. And consider the Waldorf salad a retro picnic product. Marshmallow salads with mandarin oranges and coconut? Oh, please. But for us at true Treats the grapefruit is distinct. It was served by legends of mothers and grandmothers for untold years. It is relatively inexpensive and people from high-fashion New Yorkers to farm families in the mid-West have loved and required it. Plus – the possibilities of grapefruit are boundless!


Let’s roll out the mystery and get our grapefruit spoons at the ready. We’re bringing grapefruit back!


The Heath Bar: America’s “Finest” Toffee

What is the Heath Bar?

The heath bar is a deliciously thin, even candy bar, consisting of a thin layer of toffee wrapped in a smooth layer of milk chocolate. It’s the perfect combination of soft, smooth and crunch. Born in the U.S., the Heath Bar remains one of the nation’s great candy bars…all thanks to the doings of a schoolteacher and his two sons.

Heath Bar Today

Toffy, the Candy Bar, and the Birth of the Heath Bar

To understand the Heath Bar, it’s important to understand the candy bar. Now a favorite candy of American men today – the candy bar created by the Frye family of England in 1847. Most likely their candy bars were gritty as a means of creating the smooth chocolate didn’t exist yet. That changed in 1879 when Rodolphe Lindt invented a process known as “conching” to create the smooth, delectable texture of the chocolate we love so much today. CHOCOLATE BARS – In Order of Creation: Dark, Chocolate w/Almonds, Milk, White:

            Fry’s Chocolate ad 1901

Heath Bar, Hershey Bar, Peanut Chew: The Candy Bar Difference

Candy bars were different from other chocolates.  Most chocolates, indeed, most vintage candy, was weighed and sold by the pound. Candy bars, including the Heath Bar, Hershey Bar, and others, were called “count line’ candies, sold by the piece, typically wrapped and ready to go. Around 1912, a new invention appeared on the candy scene called “combination candy bars,” a chocolate candy bar filled caramel, peanuts, marshmallow, and, yes, toffee: all relatively new, post-Civil War ingredients the consumer loved. One of the first was the Goo Goo Cluster, made in Nashville and still around today:

              Goo Goo Cluster Made in 1912

These new candy bars gave confectioners the opportunity to fill their expensive chocolate with deliciously cheaper fillers, meaning they were more profitable. Even better, the count line aspect of candy bars, made them portable enough to withstand long trips to places such as the trenches in World War I, where they appeared in the first rations ever. These included the Clark Bar and Goldenberg’s Peanut Chew.


                                        Clark Bar Ad

The Heath Bar, which was invented in 1928, eventually made an appearance in the supplies of fighters during World War II.

      World War II Ad

Enter Milk Chocolate, Toffee & A New American Classic: The Heath Bar

In 1914, just as candy bars were making a mark in the chocolate kingdom, L.S. Heath, a schoolteacher in Illinois, was looking for a line of work for his two oldest sons Bayard and Everett. The reason? Were they ne’er-do-wells? Youngsters just starting out? History doesn’t tell. Luckily, L.S. Heath found a small confectionery for sale. He bought the shop and soon his sons were selling ice cream, fountain drinks, and sweets.

One thing led to another, and candy salesmen were hanging around the Heath brothers’ store, talking, as they do, about candy. One of them was raving about another candy-maker’s toffee, called “Trail Toffee.” Legend has it the salesmen offered to provide the Heath brothers with the recipe…and the next thing you know, it’s 1928 and the company is making what was known as “Heath English Toffee” or, simply “Heath Toffee.” The Heath Brothers tweaked the recipe and soon marketed it as “America’s Finest.” People traveled from all over the place to get some.

    Heath Bar Ad 1920s

What is the Difference Between Toffee, English Toffee, and… Buttercrunch?

The difference between English toffee and plain old toffee isn’t entirely clear. Some say English toffee, made by the British, is made with more butter, and tends to be softer than the American version. In fact, some British toffee is closer to American taffy than, well, toffee. Then, there’s the explanation that nuts are the decisive factor. American toffee has nuts and British toffee doesn’t. If it has nuts on top, it’s actually buttercrunch. If it has nuts in it, it’s American toffee which is actually peanut brittle. Got it?

Never mind – stick with this: When the Heaths started selling their Heath Bar, they described it as “Heath Milk Chocolate English Toffee Bar.”

  True Treats’ Buttercrunch


LOOK: Here’s a toffee comparison from The Nibble: The Nibble: Buttercrunch Toffee Difference

 The Heath Bar Marketing Dilemma

In 1915, as the candy business was taking off, L.S. Heath bought a dairy. All went well, and in 1931, L.S. quit his job teaching school after twenty years. He then convinced his sons to sell the candy store and join the dairy business. They did, bringing at least some of the candy-making machinery with them.

It was the younger generation who also thought up this great marketing idea: why not sell our candies through the dairymen who went house-to-house selling milk, ice, and cheese. Just add “Heath Toffee” to the list and customers will add it to their purchases along with other products. And, of course, they did.

The Heath family also confronted a dilemma common to just about any manufacturer of any candy. How to distinguish themselves from the other toffee/English toffee/taffy/buttercrunch/brittle makers. They knew a good logo was at hand. So, they designed logo which had a large “H” at either end, with the “eat” in lower caps in the middle: HeatH.

  Heath Bar Ad with Two H’s

Now, here were the marketing dilemmas: First, the bar was one ounce, while the others were four, which convinced consumers they were buying a penny candy and not a five-cent bar which was typical of candy-makers of the time. Second, shoppers thought the name of the company was H&H with the “eat” telling them what to do with it. A third problem: the packaging, name aside, made it look like the laxative Ex-Lax. Salesmen weren’t sure what they were supposed to sell.

Reasons unknown, the Heath Bar took off anyway and is made by Hershey Today.

Lemonade: The Ultimate Retro Drink

Lemonade: The Ultimate Retro Drink

Lemonade is more than a tasty summer drink…it’s a pinnacle of festive occasions. According to the Norfolk Virginian of July 9, 1904, “Fourth of July without lemonade would be like the play Hamlet with Hamlet left out.”

Lemonade: The Beginnings

True? Absolutely. Especially when you consider how versatile this fabulous drink really is. At its most fundamental, lemonade is lemon, water, and sugar, a combination going back to Medieval Egypt and a drink called “qatarmizat.”

Mid-17th century and lemonade arrived in Europe where it found acclaim, especially in Paris where street vendors sold lemonade by the cup. Eventually, lemonade wound up in North America where the lemon trade had taken root in Florida. Its popularity rose with the rise of cane sugar – this sweetener, which once grew with almost reckless abandon in Asia and India, grew from the “blood and sweat” of enslaved laborers in the U.S. Since then, lemonade has gone through numerous iterations without leaving its original state – until recently, that is.


Fresh Lemonade All the Time, ANY Time

Essentially, there were two kinds of lemonade: fresh lemons and dried lemons, or a version thereof. The dried lemons are available as lemon crystals – lemon with lemon juice and citric acid. Add water and sugar and you’re done.

Buy Lemon Crystals, Harpers Ferry West Virginia, true treats historic candy,

The lemon crystals have made numerous appearances over the years, including in the rations of World War II soldiers. True Treats sells the natural crystals – a good alternative for fresh lemons as they’re easy-to-carry, appropriately tart, and essentially spoil-free. Compare the ingredients with the current trend of quick n’ easy “lemonade” that contains the following: “Artificial color, calcium fumarate, magnesium oxide, maltodextrin, sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium citrate, tocopherol and yellow 5 lake.”

Interestingly, a purer recipe for the crystals showed up as far back as 1864, in Dr. Chase’s book “Dr. Chase’s Recipes and Information for Everybody”. Dr. Chase wrote voraciously about health, well-being and just about everything else –his books sold more than any other at the time…including the Bible and carried over 800 recommendations. He wrote:

Recipe for Lemonade to Carry in the Pocket: Loaf Sugar – rub it down finely in a mortar and add citric acid ½ oz. (tartaric acid will do) and continue the trituration until all is intimately mixed and bottled for use…It is best to dry the powders.

A rounding tablespoon can be done up in a paper and carried conveniently in the pocket when persons are going into out-of-the-way places, and added to half pint of cold water when all the beauties of lemonade will stand before you waiting to be drank, not costing a penny a glass. This can be made sweeter, or more sour, if desired.

If you want to read Dr. Chase’s book, which literally includes everything from medicinal solutions to advice for harness-makers, go HERE


Lemonade: The Iterations

Of course, plenty of iterations on the lemonade theme have cropped up over time: Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife cookbook of 1824 included this recipe for lemon cream, a version of lemonade. It might be worth a try:

“Pare the rind very thin from four fresh lemons, squeeze the juice, and strain it put them both into a quart of water, sweeten it to your taste, [or use True Treats Lemon crystals, to taste] add the whites of six eggs, beat to a froth; set it over the fire, and keep stirring until it thickens, but do not let it boil then pour it in a bowl; when cold, strain it through a sieve, put it on the fire, and add the yelks of the eggs stir it till quite thick, and serve it in glasses.”


Other recipes, using traditional lemonade as a base, include this spirited one from Candy and Ice Cream Magazine of 1915:

“Use five lemons and one cup full of sugar to each quart of water [or 2-3 tablespoons of crystalized lemons] to make strong lemonade. Bruise fresh mint leaves and stalks and add to the lemonade. Then add an equal amount of ginger ale and a good size piece of ice. Let stand about half an hour before serving in order that the mint may flavor the drink.”

Perhaps my favorite lemonade recipes come from the New American Cookbook of 1941. These recipes are about as simple and surprising as any out there, while never leaving the fundamental lemon-sugar-water base. Here are a few of them:


“Egg Lemonade”

1 Egg

1-1/2 Tablespoons of sugar

½ Teaspoon of salt

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

Beat egg thoroughly. Add other ingredients. Add one cup cold water slowly, stirring steadily. Serves one.”

Then there’s this for the super-health inclined:

“Flaxseed Lemonade

2 Tablespoons Flaxseed

1 Cup Sugar

3 Lemons

[Or: 1 cup of True Treats’ lemon crystals with sugar.]

Pour 1quart boiling water over flaxseed. Simmer 45 minutes. Add sugar and rinds of the lemons (option: True Treats’ dried lemon peel if you’re using lemon crystals). Let stand 15 minutes. Add juice of lemons. Strain and serve hot or cold. Serves 2.”


If the last two recipes seem a bit challenging to the palate, try this one. It’s a winner!

“Grape Juice Lemonade”

Juice of 3 lemons

1/3 cup sugar

2 cups grape juice

Enough ice-water to make 1 quart

Combine ingredients in the order given. Chill for ½ hour. Serve in each glass a thin slice of lemon from which the seeds have been removed. [Optional. Another possibility is to use True Treats’ Fruit Slices. Daring, sweet with added value of fun.) This option will serve 6 water glasses or 18 punch glasses.”


AND, at last, this:

“Glorified Lemonade”

2 cups sugar

3 cups water

3 lemons, juice

2 limes, juice

2 cups orange or lemon carbonated beverage, or ginger ale

Boil sugar and water ten minutes. Cool. Add juice of lemons and lime, and the orange or lemon beverage, or ginger ale. Serves 6.”


For those of you who love lime but don’t have any readily at hand – no worries! True Treats can supply you with crystalized lime as well. Of course, you could always skip the lemon and replace and of these recipes with lime.

Lemonade Cocktails and Boozy Beverages

By now, you may be wondering about boozy lemonade. Before you think 1940s or ‘50s, step back a few centuries. Lemonade, spiked with alcohol, appeared during the reign of Genghis Khan in Mongolia. The mixture of “qatarmizat” aka lemonade and alcohol does not necessarily mean that early consumers were hanging out in a bar enjoying the combination – fermented drinks have long been used as a medicine as well as libation.

Lemons, if not lemonade, had a lead role in cocktails early on. An example is from Jerry Thomas’ Bar-tenders guide of 1862 – it’s one of many containing the lemon, water, and some variety of sugar:

“Gin Daisy

Take 3 or 4 dashes of Orgeat, or gum syrup.

3 dashes Maraschino.

The juice of half a small lemon.

1 wine-glass of Holland gin.

Fill glass 1/3 full of shaved ice.

Shake well, strain into a large cocktail glass, and fill with Seltzer or Apollinaris water.


To access the book get the online version for free HERE

Word of warning: The old-time cocktails make today’s selections look like soda pop.

Lemonade: The Un-Cocktail

In the 1870s prohibitionists espoused lemonade as an alternative to “evil” alcohol. First Lady Lucy Webb Hayes, a vehement prohibitionist, was nicknamed “Lemonade Lucy” by the more alcohol inclined.

What about Pink Lemonade?

How did pink lemonade come into existence? Here are the options:

  1. Folks were adding strawberries, watermelon, and other pink/red fruits to their lemonade. The color ran and pink lemonade began.
  2. A concession worker at a circus accidently dropped cinnamon candy into the lemonade in 1912. The pink sold better and pink lemonade became an item.
  3. A circus worker had washed his tights and the red color ran. In need of water for lemonade, the circus concession stand used his pink-hued laundry water. People loved the pink.

We at True Treats like the first idea best, then #2. So, we’ve added fruit sugar to our make-your-own lemonade stand kit for the perfect pink – plus cinnamon candies should you be so inclined. Either way, pink lemonade was jump-started (if not started) by the ever-popular traveling circuses of the 1800s / early 1900s…and lemonade got a boost at the same time with the availability of ice.!

Lemonade Stands!

Lemonade stands were said to begin in New York around 1879 and continued, gaining speed in New York City and most likely elsewhere in the heat. Kids started running their own stands around that time – either making money for themselves or for choice charities.


MAKE YOUR OWN – Lemonade-stand in your home with our lemonade kit. Add fruit sugar or red hots for color if you like pink, and enjoy some of the summertime sweets from when lemonade stands started.

Our Facebook Friends’ Favorites

The Web site abounds with other lemonade-based drinks. We asked our Facebook friends for their ideas. The overall winner is Arnold Palmer’s lemonade – ½ lemonade and ½ sweet tea or some variation of the theme. Their alcohol-related recommendations were pretty basic:

  • Add vodka
  • In whiskey Sours
  • With gin

All sound good.

A few friends reported in about the health benefits of lemonade. Paula Mallory told us – “I drink Arnold Palmers all day, everyday!!! After I had to have a kidney stone removed a few years ago the doctor told me to drink lemon water daily. I guess you could say I comprised by adding my unsweetened lemonade to my southern sweet tea.” Emily Williams said: “ I make it with raw honey and use it to help mitigate my summer allergies.”

Another interesting comment was from Jim Beaver. He said he uses “1 part pomegranate juice and 3 parts lemonade.” As pomegranate was prevalent in the Mediterranean and Middle East when lemonade originated, it’s likely the pomegranate was added to lemonade then, too.