By Shala Watson

Can you name the official state fruit of Texas?

Here are some hints. It’s round and juicy. Has a blush exterior, deep red flesh and leaves a surprisingly sweet taste in your mouth.

It’s Texas red grapefruit.

And February is National Grapefruit Month. The perfect time to celebrate because Texas citrus farmers grow grapefruit from November through March each year.

The Lone Star State has more than 28,000 acres of citrus. The abundant sunshine and subtropical climate make the Rio Grande Valley ideal for growing the fruit. And the area has been home to citrus groves for more than 100 years. Talk about a long-standing tradition!

But how does it get from the citrus grove to your kitchen?

It’s a bit different than other crop harvests because it’s harvested by hand. Citrus bruises may take several days to become evident, so they must be handled with extra care.

The ripe grapefruit are handpicked by experts who know how to judge the perfect color. Grapefruit has an orange color that can include a pinkish blush on the peel. Oranges have a yellowish color when they’re ready to be picked.

After it’s picked, it’s sent to the packinghouse where each piece is washed, sorted, crated and labeled. Fruits that don’t pass inspection are shipped directly to a juice plant.

Then it travels along a conveyor belt. After it’s sized, the machine drops the fruit into wooden bins below.

And finally, the hand-picked fruit is put into boxes or bags to make the journey to a grocery store near you.

The next time you’re at the supermarket choosing some tasty grapefruit for your family to enjoy, here are some tips:

  • Pick a grapefruit that feels heavy for its size. Heavy fruits mean lots of juice!
  • Choose a firm grapefruit. Not too hard and not too squishy.
  • A ripe grapefruit will stay fresh and juicy for 2-3 weeks in your home refrigerator.

So take a bite. And think of Texas citrus farmers like Dale Murden who grow the tasty fruit.

Shala Watson is an Agricultural Communications major at Tarleton State University and the Texas Farm Bureau Public Relations intern.