Like nearly all fruits and vegetables we consume, the majority of citrus fruits we eat are the delicious result of centuries of hybridization and cultivation. Among the citrus fruits, there are a handful of “ancestral” fruits that are the original variety we found in the wild and have served as the basis for our hybridization efforts to create new fruits.
The three most significant ancestral citrus fruits are pomelos, citrons, and true mandarins—the fourth one, papedas, are also an ancestral citrus fruit, but because of their unpalatable flesh and insignificant role in hybridization, they aren’t grouped with the others in this context.
Careful crossbreeding of these three citrus species has created the plentiful array of citrus fruits we enjoy today including grapefruit, lemons, limes, clementines, tangerines, sweet oranges, Bergamot oranges, lumias (pear-shaped lemons), and more.
Image courtesy of Scott Bauer/USDA.